> ^^ A
MABEL LOOMIS TODD
IN TWO VOLUMES
^^VA5 ^ ... -;•
BOSTON V77i ^"-^
By Roberts Brothers
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. To Mrs A. P. Strong .... (184 5-1853) i
II. To Mr W. a. Dickinson. . . (1847-1854) 65
III. To Mrs Gordon L. Ford, Mr
Bowdoin, Mrs Anthon, and
Miss Lavinia Dickinson . . (1848-1865) 125
IV. To Dr and Mrs J G. Holland (1853-1883) 155
V. To Mr and Mrs Samuel Bowles (1858-1881) 189
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Child Portrait of Emily Dickinson . . Frontispiece
Letter to Dr and Mrs Holland, /acsimi/e . • 159
Letter to Mr Samuel Bowles, facsimile ... 218
THE lovers of Emily Dickinson's poems have
been so eager for her prose that her sister
has gathered these letters, and committed their pre-
paration to me.
Emily Dickinson's verses, often but the reflection
of a passing mood, do not always completely repre-
sent herself, — rarely, indeed, showing the dainty
humor, the frolicsome gayety, which continually
bubbled over in her daily life. The sombre and
even weird outlook upon this world and the next,
characteristic of many of the poems, was by no
means a prevailing condition of mind ; for, while
fully apprehending all the tragic elements in life,
enthusiasm and bright joyousness were yet her
normal qualities, and stimulating moral heights her
native dwelling-place. All this may be glimpsed in
her letters, no less full of charm, it is believed, to
the general reader, than to Emily Dickinson's per-
sonal friends. As she kept no journal, the letters
are the more interesting because they contain all the
prose which she is known to have written.
It was with something almosJ Uke dread that I
approached the task of arranging these letters, lest
the deep revelations of a peculiarly shy inner life
might so pervade them that in true loyalty to their
writer none could be publicly used. But with few
exceptions they have been read and prepared with
entire relief from that feeling, and with unshrinking
pleasure ; the sanctities were not invaded. Emily
kept her little reserves, and bared her soul but seldom,
even in intimate correspondence. It was not so
much that she was always on spiritual guard, as that
she sported with her varying moods, and tested them
upon her friends with apparent delight in the effect,
as airy and playful as it was half unconscious.
So large is the number of letters to each of
several correspondents, that it has seemed best to
place these sets in separate chapters. The conti-
nuity is perhaps more perfectly preserved in this way
than by the usual method of mere chronological
succession ; especially as, in a life singularly un-
eventful, no marked periods of travel or achieve-
ment serve otherwise to classify them. On this plan
a certain order has been possible, too ; the opening
letters in each chapter are always later than the first
of the preceding, although the last letters of one
reach a date beyond the beginning of the next.
The less remarkable writing, of course, fills the first
chapters ; but even this shows her love of study, of
Nature, and a devotion to home almost as intense
as in strange Emily Bronte.
Nothing is perhaps, more marked than the change
of style between the diffuseness of girlhood and the
brilliant sententiousness of late middle life, often
startlingly unexpected. And yet suggestions of fu-
ture picturesque and epigrammatic power occasion-
ally flash through the long, youthful correspondence.
Lowell once wrote of the first letters of Carlyle,
'The man ... is all there in the earliest of his
writing that we have (potentially there, in character
wholly there).' It is chiefly for these 'potential'
promises that Emily Dickinson's girlish letters are
included, all the variations in the evolution of a
style having hardly less interest for the student of
human nature than of literature. Village life, even
in a college town, was very democratic in the early
days when the first of these letters were written,
and they suggest a refreshing atmosphere of homely
Unusual difficulties have been encountered in ar-
ranging the letters with definite reference to years,
as none but the very earliest were dated. The
change in handwriting, of which specimens are given
in facsimile, was no less noticeable than Emily
Dickinson's development in literary style ; and this
alone has been a general guide. The thoughtfulness
of a few correspondents in recording the time of
the letters' reception has been a farther and most
welcome assistance ; while occasionally the kind of
postage-stamp and the postmark helped to indicate
when they were written, although generally the enve-
lopes had not been preserved. But the larger part
have been placed by searching out the dates of
contemporaneous incidents mentioned, — for in-
stance, numerous births, marriages, and deaths;
any epoch in the life of a friend was an event to
Emily Dickinson, always noticed by a bit of flashing
verse, or a graceful, if mystically expressed, note of
comfort or congratulation. If errors are found in
assignment to the proper time, it will not be from
lack of having interrogated all available sources of
In more recent years, dashes instead of punctua-
tion, and capitals for all important words, together
with the quaint handwriting, give to the actual
manuscript an individual fascination quite irre-
sistible. But the coldness of print destroys that
elusive charm, so that dashes and capitals have been
restored to their conventional use.
In her later years, Emily Dickinson rarely ad-
dressed the envelopes : it seemed as if her sensitive
nature shrank from the publicity which even her
handwriting would undergo, in the observation of
indifferent eyes. Various expedients were resorted
to, — obliging friends frequently performed this office
for her; sometimes a printed newspaper label was
pasted upon the envelope ; but the actual strokes
of her own pencil were, so far as possible, reserved
exclusively for friendly eyes.
Emily Dickinson's great disinclination for an ex-
position of the theology current during her girlhood
j is matter for small wonder. While her fathers were
men of recognized originality and force, they did not
question the religious teaching of the time ; they
were leaders in town and church, even strict and
uncompromising in their piety. Reverence for
accepted ways and forms, merely as such, seems
entirely to have been left out of Emily's constitu-
tion. To her, God was not a far-away and dreary
Power to be daily addressed, — the great ' Eclipse '
of which she wrote, — but He was near and familiar
and pervasive. Her garden was full of His bright-
ness and glory ; the birds sang and the sky glowed
because of Him. To shut herself out of the sun-
shine in a church, dark, chilly, restricted, was rather
to shut herself away from Him ; almost pathetically
she wrote, ' I believe the love of God may be taught
not to seem like bears.'
In essence, no real irreverence mars her poems
or her letters. Of malice aforethought, — an inten-
tional irreverence, — she is never once guilty. The
old interpretation of the biblical estimate of life was
cause to her for gentle, wide-eyed astonishment.
No one knew better the phrases which had become
cant, and which seemed always to misrepresent the
Father Whom she knew with personal directness
and without necessity for human intervention. It
was a theologically misconceived idea of a 'jealous
God,' for which she had a profound contempt ; and
the fact that those ideas were still held by the stricter
New England people of her day made not the
slightest difference in her expression of disapproval.
Fearless and daring, she had biblical quotation at
her finger-tips ; and even if she sometimes used it
in a way which might shock a conventionalist, she
had in her heart too profound an adoration for the
great, ever-living, and present Father to hold a
shadow of real irreverence toward Him, so pecu-
liarly near. No soul in which dwelt not a very
noble and actual love and respect for the essen-
tials could have written as she did of real triumph,
of truth, of aspiration.
*We never know how high we are,
Till we are called to rise ;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.
'The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing
Did not ourselves the cubits warp,
For fear to be a king.'
Must not one who wrote that have had her ever-
open shrine, her reverenced tribunal?
The whims and pretences of society, its forms
and unrealities, seemed to her thin and unworthy.
Conventionalities, while they amused, exasperated
her also ; and the little poem beginning,
' The show is not the show,
But they that go,'
expresses in large measure her attitude toward soci-
ety, when she lived in the midst of it. Real life,
on the other hand, seemed vast and inexpressibly
solemn. Petty trivialities had no part in her con-
stitution, and she came to despise them more and
more, — so much, indeed, that with her increasing
shyness, she gradually gave up all journeys, and
finally retired completely from even the simple life
of a New England college town.
As has been said of Emily Bronte, ' To this natural
isolation of spirit we are in a great measure in-
debted for that passionate love of Nature which
gives such a vivid reality and exquisite simplicity to
her descriptions.' Emily Dickinson's letters, almost
as much as the poems, exhibit her elf-like intimacy
with Nature. She sees and apprehends the great
mother's processes, and shares the rapture of all
created things under the wide sky. The letters
speak of flowers, of pines and autumnal colors ; but
no natural sight or sound or incident seems to have
escaped her delicate apprehension.
Bird songs, crickets, frost, and winter winds, even
the toad and snake, mushrooms and bats, have an in-
describable charm for her, which she in turn brings
to us. March, ' that month of proclamation,' was
especially dear; and among her still unpublished
verses is a characteristic greeting to the windy
month. In all its aspects ' Nature became the
unique charm and consolation of her life, and as
such she has written of it.'
Warm thanks are due the friends who have gen-
erously lent letters for reproduction. That they
were friends of Emily Dickinson, and willing to
share her words with the larger outside circle, wait-
ing and appreciative, entitles them to the gratitude,
not merely of the Editor, but of all who make up
the world that Emily ' never saw,' but to which,
nevertheless, she sent a 'message.'
MABEL LOOMIS TODD
LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON
To Mrs A. P. Strong
nPHE letters in this chapter were written
^ to a schoolmate and early friend. The
first is one of the oldest yet found, dated
when Emily Dickinson had but recently passed
her fourteenth birthday.
Before the era of outer envelopes, it is
quaintly written on a large square sheet, and
so folded that the fourth page forms a cover
bearing the address. Most of the remaining
letters to Mrs Strong are thus folded, and
sealed either with wax or wafers, — occasion-
ally with little rectangular or diamond papers
bearing mottoes stamped in gold. The hand-
writing is almost microscopic, the pages en-
tirely filled. Merely personal items have been
It will be seen that the name ' Emilie E.
Dickinson ' is sometimes used. The ie was
VOL. I. — I
2 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1845
a youthful vagary, and the second initial, E.,
stood for Elizabeth, a * middle name ' entirely
discarded in later years.
Amherst, Feb. 23, 1845.
Dear A., — After receiving the smitings of con-
science for a long time, I have at length succeeded
in stifling the voice of that faithful monitor by a
promise of a long letter to you ; so leave everything
and sit down prepared for a long siege in the shape
of a bundle of nonsense from friend E.
... I keep your lock of hair as precious as gold
and a great deal more so. I often look at it when
I go to my little lot of treasures, and wish the owner
of that glossy lock were here. Old Time wags on
pretty much as usual at Amherst, and I know of
nothing that has occurred to break the silence ;
however, the reduction of the postage has excited
my risibles somewhat. Only think ! We can send
a letter before long for five little coppers only, filled
with the thoughts and advice of dear friends. But
I will not get into a philosophizing strain just yet.
There is time enough for that upon another page
of this mammoth sheet. . . . Your bean- ideal D.
I have not seen lately. I presume he was changed
into a star some night while gazing at them, and
placed in the constellation Orion between Bellatrix
and Betelgeux. I doubt not if he was here he
would wish to be kindly remembered to you.
What delightful weather we have had for a week !
1845] TO MRS STRONG 3
It seems more like smiling May crowned with flow-
ers than cold, arctic February wading through snow-
drifts. I have heard some sweet little birds sing,
but I fear we shall have more cold weather and their
little bills will be frozen up before their songs are
finished. My plants look beautifully. Old King
Frost has not had the pleasure of snatching any of
them in his cold embrace as yet, and I hope will
not. Our little pussy has made out to live. I believe
you know what a fatality attends our little kitties, all
of them, having had six die one right after the other.
Do you love your litde niece J. as well as ever?
Your soliloquy on the year that is past and gone was
not unheeded by me. Would that we might spend
the year which is now fleeting so swiftly by to better
advantage than the one which we have not the power
to recall ! Now I know you will laugh, and say I
wonder what makes Emily so sentimental. But I
don't care if you do, for I sha'n't hear you. What
are you doing this v/inter? I am about everything.
I am now v/orking a pair of slippers to adorn my
father's feet. I wish you would come and help me
finish them. . . . Although it is late in the day, I
am going to wish you a happy New Year, — not but
what I think your New Year will pass just as happily
without it, but to make a litde return for your kind
wish, which so far in a good many respects has been
granted, probably because you wished that it might
be so. ... I go to singing-school Sabbath evenings
to improve my voice. Don't you envy me? . . .
4 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1845
I wish you would come and make me a long visit.
If you will, I will entertain you to the best of my
abilities, which you know are neither few nor small.
Why can't you persuade your father and mother to
let you come here to school next term, and keep me
company, as I am going? Miss , I presume you
can guess who I mean, is going to finish her educa-
tion next summer. The finishing stroke is to be put
on at Newton. She will then have learned all that
we poor foot-travellers are toiling up the hill of
knowledge to acquire. Wonderful thought ! Her
horse has carried her along so swiftly that she has
nearly gained the summit, and we are plodding along
on foot after her. Well said and sufficient this.
We '11 finish an education sometime, won't we? You
may then be Plato, and I will be Socrates, provided
you won't be wiser than I am. Lavinia just now
interrupted my flow of thought by saying give my
love to A. I presume you will be glad to have some
one break off" this epistle. All the girls send much
love to you. And please accept a large share for
yourself. From your beloved
Emily E. Dickinson.
Please send me a copy of that Romance you were
writing at Amherst. I am in a fever to read it. I
expect it will be against my Whig feelings.
After this postscript many others follow,
across the top, down the edges, tucked in
1845] TO MRS STRONG 5
wherever space will allow. There are also a
few lines from each of three girl friends to
' dear A/
Amherst, May 7, 1845.
Dear A., — It seems almost an age since I have
seen you, and it is indeed an age for friends to be
separated. I was delighted to receive a paper from
you, and I also was much pleased with the news it
contained, especially that you are taking lessons on
the * piny,' as you always call it. But remember not to
get on ahead of me. Father intends to have a piano
very soon. How happy I shall be when I have one
of my own ! Old Father Time has wrought many
changes here since your last short visit. Miss S. T.
and Miss N. M. have both taken the marriage vows
upon themselves. Dr Hitchcock has moved into
his new house, and Mr Tyler across the way from
our house has moved into President Hitchcock's old
house. Mr C. is going to move into Mr T.'s former
house, but the worst thing old Time has done here is
he has walked so fast as to overtake H. M. and carry
her to Hartford on last week Saturday. I was so
vexed with him for it that I ran after him and made
out to get near enough to him to put some salt on
his tail, when he fled and left me to run home alone.
. . . Viny went to Boston this morning with father,
to be gone a fortnight, and I am left alone in all my
glory. I suppose she has got there before this time,
and is probably staring with mouth and eyes wide
6 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1845
open at the wonders of the city. I have been to
walk to-night, and got some very choice wild flowers.
I wish you had some of them. Viny and I both go
to school this term. We have a very fine school.
There are ()2i scholars. I have four studies. They
are Mental Philosophy, Geology, Latin, and Botany.
How large they sound, don't they? I don't believe
you have such big studies. . . . My plants look finely
now. I am going to send you a little geranium leaf
in this letter, which you must press for me. Have
you made you an herbarium yet? I hope you will
if you have not, it would be such a treasure to you ;
'most all the girls are making one. If you do, per-
haps I can make some additions to it from flowers
growing around here. How do you enjoy your school
this term ? Are the teachers as pleasant as our old
school-teachers? I expect you have a great many
prim, starched up young ladies there, who, I doubt
not, are perfect models of propriety and good behav-
ior. If they are, don't let your free spirit be chained
by them. I don't know as there [are] any in school
of this stamp. But there 'most always are a few,
whom the teachers look up to and regard as their
satellites. I am growing handsome very fast indeed !
I expect I shall be the belle of Amherst when I reach
my 1 7th year. I don't doubt that I shall have per-
fect crowds of admirers at that age. Then how I
shall delight to make them await my bidding, and
with what delight shall I witness their suspense while
I make my final decision. But away with my non-
1845] TO MRS STRONG 7
sense. I have written one composition this term,
and I need not assure you it was exceedingly edify-
ing to myself as well as everybody else. Don't you
want to see it? I really wish you could have a
chance. We are obliged to write compositions once
in a fortnight, and select a piece to read from
some interesting book the week that we don't write
We really have some most charming young women
in school this term. I sha'n't call them anything
but women, for women they are in every sense of
the word. I must, however, describe one, and while
I describe her I wish Imagination, who is ever pres-
ent with you, to make a litde picture of this self- same
young lady in your mind, and by her aid see if you
cannot conceive how she looks. Well, to begin. . . .
Then just imagine her as she is, and a huge string of
gold beads encircling her neck, and don't she present
a lively picture ; and then she is so bustling, she is
always whizzing about, and whenever I come in con-
tact with her I really think I am in a hornet's nest.
I can't help thinking every time I see this singular
piece of humanity of Shakespeare's description of a
tempest in a teapot. But I must not laugh about
her, for I verily believe she has a good heart, and
that is the principal thing now-a-days. Don't you
hope I shall become wiser in the company of such
virtuosos? It would certainly be desirable. Have
you noticed how beautifully the trees look now?
They seem to be completely covered with fragrant
8 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1845
blossoms. ... I had so many things to do for Viny,
as she was going away, that very much against my
wishes I deferred writing you until now, but forgive
and forget, dear A., and I will promise to do better
in future. Do write me soon, and let it be a long,
long letter ; and when you can't get time to write,
send a paper, so as to let me know you think of me
still, though we are separated by hill and stream.
All the girls send much love to you. Don't forget
to let me receive a letter from you soon. I can say
no more now as my paper is all filled up.
Your aifectionate friend,
Emily E. Dickinson.
[Written in 1845 5 postmarked Amherst, August 4.]
Dear A., — I have now sat down to write you a
long, long letter. My writing apparatus is upon a
stand before me, and all things are ready. I have
no flowers before me as you had to inspire you.
But then you know I can imagine myself inspired
by them, and perhaps that will do as well. You
cannot imagine how delighted I was to receive your
letter. It was so full, and everything in it was inter-
esting to me because it came from you. I presume
you did not doubt my gratitude for it, on account
of my delaying so long to answer it, for you know I
have had no leisure for anything. When I tell you
that our term has been eleven weeks long, and that
I have had four studies and taken music lessons, you
1845] TO MRS STRONG 9
can imagine a little how my time has been taken up
lately. I will try to be more punctual in such mat-
ters for the future. How are you now? I am very
sorry to hear that you are unable to remain in your
school on account of your health, it must be such
a disappointment to you. But I presume you are
enjoying yourself much to be at home again. You
asked me in your last letter if old Father Time
wagged on in Amherst pretty much as ever. For
my part, I see no particular change in his move-
ments unless it be that he goes on a swifter pace
than formerly, and that he wields his sickle more
sternly than ever. How do you like taking music
lessons? I presume you are delighted with it. 1
am taking lessons this term of Aunt S , who is
spending the summer with us. I never enjoyed
myself more than I have this summer; for we
have had such a delightful school and such pleasant
teachers, and besides I have had a piano of my
own. Our examination is to come off next week
on Monday. I wish you could be here at that time.
Why can't you come? If you will, you can come
and practise on my piano as much as you wish to.
I am already gasping in view of our examination ;
and although I am determined not to dread it I
know it is so foolish, yet in spite of my heroic reso-
lutions, I cannot avoid a few misgivings when I
think of those tall, stern trustees, and when I know
that I shall lose my character if I don't recite as
precisely as the laws of the Medes and Persians.
10 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1845
But what matter will that be a hundred years hence ?
I will distress you no longer with my fears, for you
know well enough what they are without my enter-
ing into any explanations. Are you practising now
you are at home? I hope you are, for if you are
not you would be likely to forget what you have
learnt. I want very much to hear you play. I have
the same instruction book that you have, Bertini,
and I am getting along in it very well. Aunt S
says she sha'n't let me have many tunes now, for she
wants I should get over in the book a good ways first.
Oh, A., if Sarah G , H , and yourself were
only here this summer, what times we should have !
I wish if we can't be together all the time that we
could meet once in a while at least. I wish you
would all come to our house, and such times as we
would have would be a caution. I want to see you
all so much that it seems as if I could not wait.
Have you heard anything from Miss Adams, our
dear teacher? How much I would give to see her
once more, but I am afraid I never shall. She is so
far away. You asked me in your letter to tell you
all the news worth telling, and although there is not
much, yet I will endeavor to think of everything
that will be new to you. In the first place, Mrs
J. and Mrs S. M. have both of them a little daugh-
ter. Very promising children, I understand. I
don't doubt if they live they will be ornaments to
society. I think they are both to be considered
as embryos of future usefulness. Mrs W. M. has
1845] TO MRS STRONG 1 1
now two grand-daughters. Is n't she to be envied?
... I am sorry that you are laying up H.'s sins
against her. I think you had better heap coals of
fire upon her head by writing to her constantly until
you get an answer. I have some patience with
these ' school marms.' They have so many trials.
I hope you will decide to blot out her iniquities
against her. I don't know about this Mr E. giv-
ing you concert tickets. I think for my part it
looks rather suspicious. He is a young man, I sup-
pose. These music teachers are always such high-
souled beings that I think they would exactly suit
your fancy. My garden looks beautifully now. I
wish you could see it. I would send you a bouquet
if I could get a good opportunity. My house plants
look very finely, too. You wished me to give you
some account of S. P. She is attending school this
term and studying Latin and Algebra. She is very
well and happy and sends much love to you. All
the girls send much love to you, and wish you to
write to them. I have been working a beautiful
book-mark to give to one of our school-girls. Per-
haps you have seen it. It is an arrow with a beau-
tiful wreath around it. Have you altered any since
I have seen you? Isn't it a funny question for one
friend to ask another? I haven't altered any, I
think, except that I have my hair done up, and that
makes me look different. I can imagine just how
you look now. I wonder what you are doing this
moment. I have got an idea that you are knitting
12 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1845
edging. Are you? Won't you tell me when you
answer my letter whether I guessed right or not?
. . . You gave me a compliment in your letter in
regard to my being a faithful correspondent. I
must say I think I deserve it. I have been learn-
ing several beautiful pieces lately. The 'Grave of
Bonaparte' is one, * Lancers Quickstep,' and 'Maiden,
weep no more,' which is a sweet little song. I wish
much to see you and hear you play. I hope you
will come to A. before long. Why can't you pass
commencement here? I do wish you would. . . .
I have looked my letter over, and find I have written
nothing worth reading. , . . Accept much love from
your affectionate friend,
Emily E. D.
Thursday, Sept. 26, 1845.
Dearest A., — As I just glanced at the clock
and saw how smoothly the little hands glide over
the surface, I could scarcely believe that those self-
same little hands had eloped with so many of my
precious moments since I received your affectionate
letter, and it was still harder for me to believe that
I, who am always boasting of being so faithful a cor-
respondent, should have been guilty of negligence
in so long delaying to answer it. ... I am very
glad to hear that you are better than you have been,
and I hope in future disease will not be as neigh-
borly as he has been heretofore to either of us. I
long to see you, dear A., and speak with you face
1845] TO MRS STRONG 1 3
to face ; but so long as a bodily interview is denied
us, we must make letters answer, though it is hard
for friends to be separated. I really believe you
would have been frightened to have heard me scold-
when Sabra informed me that you had decided not
to visit Amherst this fall. But as I could find no
one upon whom to vent my spleen for your decision,-
I thought it best to be calm, and therefore have at
length resigned myself to my cruel fate, though with
not a very good grace. I think' you do well to
inquire whether anything has been heard from H.
I really don't know what has become of her, unless
procrastination has carried her off. I think that
must be the case. I think you have given quite a
novel description of the wedding. Are you quite
sure Mr F., the minister, told them to stand up and
he would tie them in a great bow-knot ? But I beg
pardon for speaking so lightly of so solemn a cere-
mony. You asked me in your letter if I did not
think you partial in your admiration of Miss Helen
H., ditto Mrs P. I answer, Not in the least. She
was universally beloved in Amherst. She made us
quite a visit in June, and we regretted more than
ever that she was going where we could not see her
as often as we had been accustomed. She seemed
very happy in her prospects, and seemed to think
distance nothing in comparison to a home with the
one of her choice. I hope she will be happy,
and of course she will. I wished much to see her
once more, but was denied the privilege. . . . You
14 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1845
asked me if I was attending school now. I am
not. Mother thinks me not able to confine myself
to school this term. She had rather I would exer-
cise, and I can assure you I get plenty of that article
by staying at home. I am going to learn to make
bread to-morrow. So you may imagine me with my
sleeves rolled up, mixing flour, milk, saleratus, etc.,
with a deal of grace. I advise you if you don't
know how to make the staff of life to learn with
dispatch. I think I could keep house very com-
fortably if I knew how to cook. But as long as I
don't, my knowledge of housekeeping is about of
as much use as faith without works, which you know
we are told is dead. Excuse my quoting from
Scripture, dear A., for it was so handy in this case
I could n't get along very well without it. Since I
wrote you last, the summer is past and gone, and
autumn with the sere and yellow leaf is already
upon us. I never knew the time to pass so swiftly,
it seems to me, as the past summer. I really think
some one must have oiled his chariot wheels, for I
don't recollect of hearing him pass, and I am sure
I should if something had not prevented his chariot
wheels from creaking as usual. But I will not expa-
tiate upon him any longer, for I know it is v/icked
to trifle with so revered a personage, and I fear
he will make me a call in person to inquire as to
the remarks which I have made concerning him.
Therefore I will let him alone for the present. . . .
How are you getting on with your music ? Well, I
1845] TO MRS STRONG 1 5
hope and trust. I am taking lessons and am get-
ting along very well, and now I have a piano, I am
very happy. I feel much honored at having even a
doll named for me. I believe I shall have to give
it a silver cup, as that is the custom among old
ladies when a child is named for them. . . . Have
you any flowers now ? I have had a beautiful flower-
garden this summer ; but they are nearly gone now.
It is very cold to-night, and I mean to pick the pret-
tiest ones before I go to bed, and cheat Jack Frost
of so many of the treasures he calculates to rob
to-night. Won't it be a capital idea to put him at
defiance, for once at least, if no more? I would
love to send you a bouquet if I had an opportunity,
and you could press it and write under it. The last
flowers of summer. Would n't it be poetical, and
you know that is what young ladies aim to be now-
a-days. ... I expect I have altered a good deal
since I have seen you, dear A. I have grown tall a
good deal, and wear my golden tresses done up in
a net-cap. Modesty, you know, forbids me to men-
tion whether my personal appearance has altered.
I leave that for others to judge. But my [word
omitted] has not changed, nor will it in time to
come. 1 shall always remain the same old six-
pence. ... I can say no more now, as it is after
ten, and everybody has gone to bed but me. Don't
forget your affectionate friend,
Emily E. D.
1 6 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1846
Amherst, Jan. 12, 1846.
A., MY DEAR, — Since I received your precious
letter another year has commenced its course, and
the old year has gone never to return. How sad
it makes one feel to sit down quietly and think of
the flight of the old year, and the unceremonious
obtrusion of the new year upon our notice ! How
many things we have omitted to do which might
have cheered a human heart, or whispered hope
in the ear of the sorrowful, and how many things
have we done over which the dark mantle of regret
will ever fall ! How many good resolutions did I
make at the commencement of the year now flown,
merely to break them and to feel more than ever
convinced of the weakness of my own resolutions !
The New Year's day was unusually gloomy to me,
I know not why, and perhaps for that reason a host
of unpleasant reflections forced themselves upon
me which I found not easy to throw off. But
I will no longer sentimentalize upon the past, for
I cannot recall it. I will, after inquiring for the
health of my dear A., relapse into a more lively
strain. I can hardly have patience to write, for I
have not seen you for so long that I have worlds
of things to tell you, and my pen is not swift enough
to answer my purpose at all. However, I will try
to make it communicate as much information as
possible and wait to see your own dear self once
more before I relate all my thoughts which have
come and gone since I last saw you. I suppose
1S46] TO MRS STRONG 1 7
from your letter that you are enjoying yourself finely
this winter at Miss C.'s school. I would give a great
deal if I was there with you. I don't go to school
this winter except to a recitation in German. Mr
C. has a very large class, and father thought I might
never have another opportunity to study it. It
takes about an hour and a half to recite. Then I
take music lessons and practise two hours in a day,
and besides these two I have a large stand of plants
to cultivate. This is the principal round of my
occupation this winter. ... I have just seen a
funeral procession go by of a negro baby, so if my
ideas are rather dark you need not marvel. . . .
Old Santa Glaus was very polite to me the last
Ghristmas. I hung up my stocking on the bed-
post as usual. I had a perfume bag and a bottle
of otto of rose to go with it, a sheet of music,
a china mug with Forget me not upon it, from
S. S., — who, by the way, is as handsome, enter-
taining, and as fine a piano player as in former
times, — a toilet cushion, a watch case, a fortune-
teller, and an amaranthine stock of pin-cushions and
needlebooks, which in ingenuity and art would rival
the works of Scripture Dorcas. I found abundance
of candy in my stocking, which I do not think has
had the anticipated effect upon my disposition, in
case it was to sweeten it, also two hearts at the
bottom of all, which I thought looked rather omi-
nous ; but I will not enter into any more details, for
they take up more room than I can spare.
VOL. I. — 2
1 8 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1846 ,
Haven't we had delightful weather for a week or
two ? It seems as if Old Winter had forgotten him-
self. Don't you believe he is absent-minded? It
has been bad weather for colds, however. I have
had a severe cold for a few days, and can sympathize
with you, though I have been delivered from a stiff
neck. I think you must belong to the tribe of Israel,
for you know in the Bible the prophet calls them a
stiff-necked generation. I have lately come to the
conclusion that I am Eve, alias Mrs Adam. You
know there is no account of her death in the Bible,
and why am not I Eve ? If you find any statements
which you think likely to prove the truth of the case,
I wish you would send them to me without delay.
Have you heard a word from H. M. or S. T.?
I consider them lost sheep. I send them a paper
every week on Monday, but I never get one in
return. I am almost a mind to take a hand-car
and go around to hunt them up. I can't think that
they have forgotten us, and I know of no reason
unless they are sick why they should delay so long
to show any signs of remembrance. Do write me
soon a very long letter, and tell me all about your
school and yourself too.
Your affectionate friend,
Emily E. Dickinson.
Friday Eve [summer], 1846.
My dear a., — Though it is a long time since I
received your affectionate epistle, yet when I give
1846] TO MRS STRONG 1 9
you my reasons for my long delay, I know you will
freely forgive and forget all past offences.
It seems to me that time has never flown so
swiftly with me as it has the last spring. I have
been busy every minute, and not only so, but hur-
ried all the time. So you may imagine that I have
not had a spare moment, much though my heart has
longed for it, to commune with an absent friend.
... I presume you will be wondering by this time
what I am doing to be in so much haste as I have
declared myself to be. Well, I will tell you. I am
fitting to go to South Hadley Seminary, and expect
if my health is good to enter that institution a year
from next fall. Are you not astonished to hear such
news ? You cannot imagine how much I am antici-
pating in entering there. It has been in my thought
by day, and my dreams by night, ever since I heard
of South Hadley Seminary. I fear I am anticipat-
ing too much, and that some freak of fortune may
overturn all my airy schemes for future happiness.
But it is my nature always to anticipate more than
I realize. . . . Have you not heard that Miss Adams
— dear Miss Adams — is here this term? Oh, you
cannot imagine how natural it seems to see her
happy face in school once more. But it needs
Harriet, Sarah, and your own dear self to complete
the ancient picture. I hope we shall get you all
back before Miss Adams goes away again. Have
you yet heard a word from that prodigal, — H. ? . . .
Your affectionate friend,
Emily E. D.
20 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1846
I send you a memento in the form of a pressed
flower, which you must keep.
A converted Jew has been lecturing here for the
last week. His lectures were free, and they were
on the present condition of the Jews. Dr Scudder,
a returned missionary, is here now, and he is lec-
turing also. Have you seen a beautiful piece of
poetry which has been going through the papers
lately? Are we almost there ? is the title of it. . . .
I have two hours to practise daily now I am in
school. I have been learning a beautiful thing,
which I long to have you hear. . . .
Boston, Sept. 8, 1846.
My dear Friend A., — It is a long, long time
since I received your welcome letter, and it be-
comes me to sue for forgiveness, which I am sure
your affectionate heart will not refuse to grant. But
many and unforeseen circumstances have caused my
long delay. . . . Father and mother thought a jour-
ney would be of service to me, and accordingly I
left home for Boston week before last. I had a
delightful ride in the cars, and am now getting
settled down, if there can be such a state in the
city. I am visiting in my aunt's family, and am
happy. Happy ! did I say ? No ; not happy, but
contented. I have been here a fortnight to-day,
and in that time I have both seen and heard a great
many wonderful things. Perhaps you might like to
know how I have spent the time here. I have
1846] TO MRS STRONG 21
been to Mount Auburn, to the Chinese Museum, to
Bunker Hill ; I have attended two concerts and one
Horticultural Exhibition. I have been upon the
top of the State House, and almost everywhere that
you can imagine. Have you ever been to Mount
Auburn? If not, you can form but slight con-
ception of this ' City of the Dead.' It seems as if
nature had formed this spot with a distinct idea in
view of its being a resting-place for her children,
where, wearied and disappointed, they might stretch
themselves beneath the spreading cypress, and close
their eyes ' calmly as to a night's repose, or flowers
at set of sun.*
The Chinese Museum is a great curiosity. There
are an endless variety of wax figures made to re-
semble the Chinese, and dressed in their costume.
Also articles of Chinese manufacture of an innu-
merable variety deck the rooms. Two of the
Chinese go with this exhibition. One of them is a
professor of music in China, and the other is teacher
of a writing-school at home. They were both
wealthy, and not obliged to labor, but they were
also opium-eaters ; and fearing to continue the prac-
tice lest it destroyed their lives, yet unable to
break the ' rigid chain of habit ' in their own land,
they left their families, and came to this country.
They have now entirely overcome the practice.
There is something peculiarly interesting to me in
their self-denial. The musician played upon two of
his instruments, and accompanied them with his
22 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1846
voice. It needed great command over my risible
faculties to enable me to keep sober as this amateur
was performing ; yet he was so very polite to give
us some of his native music that we could not do
otherwise than to express ourselves highly edified
with his performances. The writing-master is con-
stantly occupied in writing the names of visitors who
request it, upon cards in the Chinese language, for
which he charges 12J cents apiece. He never fails
to give his card besides to the persons who wish it.
I obtained one of his cards for Viny and myself, and
I consider them very precious. Are you still in Nor-
wich, and attending to music ? I am not now taking
lessons, but I expect to when I return home.
Does it seem as though September had come?
How swiftly summer has fled, and what report has
it borne to heaven of misspent time and wasted
hours? Eternity only will answer. The ceaseless
flight of the seasons is to me a very solemn thought ;
and yet why do we not strive to make a better im-
provement of them ? With how much emphasis the
poet has said, * We take no note of time but from
its loss. 'Twere wise in man to give it then a
tongue. Pay no moment but in just purchase of its
worth, and what its worth ask death-beds. They
can tell. Part with it as with life reluctantly.*
Then we have higher authority than that of man for
the improvement of our time. For God has said,
' Work while the day lasts, for the night is coming in
the which no man can work.' Let us strive together
1846] TO MRS STRONG 23
to part with time more reluctantly, to watch the
pinions of the fleeting moment until they are dim
in the distance, and the new-coming moment claims
our attention. I have perfect confidence in God
and His promises, and yet I know not why I feel
that the world holds a predominant place in my
affections. . . . Your affectionate friend,
Emily E. D.
Numerous postscripts are appended, as
usually : —
I have really suffered from the heat the last week.
I think it remarkable that we should have such
weather in September. There were over one hun-
dred deaths in Boston last week, a great many of
them owing to the heat. Mr Taylor, our old
teacher, was in Amherst at Commencement time.
Oh, I do love Mr Taylor. It seems so like old
times to meet Miss Adams and Mr Taylor together
again. I could hardly refrain from singing, *Auld
Lang Syne.' It seemed so very a propos. Have
you forgotten the memorable ride we all took with
Mr Taylor, * Long, long ago ' ? . . . Austin entered
college last Commencement. Only think ! I have
a brother who has the honor to be a Freshman !
Will you not promise me that you will come to
Commencement when he graduates ? Do ! Please !
I have altered very much since you were here. I
am now very tall, and wear long dresses nearly. Do
you believe we shall know each other when we meet ?
Don't forget to write soon. E.
24 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1846
Sabbath Eve, 1846.
My dear a., — When I last wrote you I was in
Boston, where I spent a dehghtful visit of four weeks.
I returned home about the middle of September in
very good health and spirits, for which it seems to
me I cannot be sufficiently grateful to the Giver of
all mercies. I expected to go into the Academy
upon my return home, but as I stayed longer than I
expected to, and as the school had already com-
menced, I made up my mind to remain at home
during the fall term and pursue my studies the win-
ter term, which commences a week after Thanksgiv-
ing. I kept my good resolution for once in my life,
and have been sewing, practising upon the piano,
and assisting mother in household affairs. I am
anticipating the commencement of the next term
with a great deal of pleasure, for I have been an
exile from school two terms on account of my health,
and you know what it is to Move school.' Miss
Adams is with us now, and will remain through the
winter, and we have an excellent Principal in the
person of Mr Leonard Humphrey, who was the last
valedictorian. We now have a fine school. I thank
you a thousand times for your long and affectionate
letter. ... I found a quantity of sewing waiting
with open arms to embrace me, or rather for me
to embrace it, and I could hardly give myself up
to * Nature's sweet restorer,' for the ghosts of out-
of-order garments crying for vengeance upon my
1847] TO MRS STRONG 25
defenceless head. However, I am happy to mform
you, my dear friend, that I have nearly finished my
sewing for winter, and will answer all the letters
which you shall deem worthy to send so naughty a
girl as myself, at short notice. . . .
Write soon. Your affectionate
Emily E. D.
[March 15, 1847.]
Sabbath Eve, 1847.
Ever dear A., — . . . We have spent our vacation
of a fortnight, and school has commenced again since
you wrote me. I go this term, and am studying
Algebra, Euclid, Ecclesiastical History, and review-
ing Arithmetic again to be upon the safe side of
things next autumn. We have a delightful school
this term under the instruction of our former prin-
cipals, and Miss R. Woodbridge, daughter of Rev.
Dr W. of Hadley, for preceptress. We all love
her very much. Perhaps a slight description of
her might be interesting to my dear A. She is
tall and rather slender, but finely proportioned,
has a most witching pair of blue eyes, rich brown
hair, delicate complexion, cheeks which vie with the
opening rose-bud, teeth like pearls, dimples which
come and go like the ripples in yonder little merry
brook, and then she is so affectionate and lovely.
Forgive my glowing description, for you know I am
always in love with my teachers. Yet, much as we
26 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1847
love her, it seems lonely and strange without 'our
dear Miss Adams.' I suppose you know that she
has left Amherst, not again to return as a teacher.
It is indeed true that she is to be married. Are you
not astonished? Nothing was known but that she
was to return to the school, until a few days before
she left for Syracuse, where she has gone to make her
* wedding gear.' She is to be married the first of
next April, to a very respectable lawyer in Conway,
Massachusetts. She seemed to be very happy in
anticipation of her future prospects, and I hope she
will realize all her fond hopes. I cannot bear to
think that she will never more wield the sceptre and
sit upon the throne in our venerable schoolhouse,
and yet I am glad she is going to have a home of
her own, and a kind companion to take life's journey
with her. I am delighted that she is to live so near
us, for we can ride up and see her often. You can-
not imagine how much I enjoyed your description
of your Christmas fete at Miss Campbell's. How
magnificent the * Christmas tree' must have been,
and what a grand time you must have had, so many
of you ! Oh ! !
I had a great many presents, Christmas and New
Year's holidays, both, but we had no such celebra-
tion of the former which you describe. ... Do write
me soon — a long letter — and tell me how soon you
are coming, and how long we can keep you when
you come. Your affectionate
Emily E. Dickinson.
i847] TO MRS STRONG 2/
Mt Holyoke Seminary, Nov. 6, 1847.
My dear a., — I am really at Mount Holyoke
Seminary, and this is to be my home for a long year.
Your affectionate letter was joyfully received, and I
wish that this might make you as happy as yours did
me. It has been nearly six weeks since I left home,
and that is a longer time than I was ever away from
home before now. I was very homesick for a few
days, and it seemed to me I could not live here.
But I am now contented and quite happy, if I can
be happy when absent from my dear home and
friends. You may laugh at the idea that I cannot
be happy when away from home, but you must
remember that I have a very dear home and that
this is my first trial in the way of absence for any
length of time in my life. As you desire it, I will
give you a full account of myself since I first left the
paternal roof. I came to South Hadley six weeks ago
next Thursday. I was much fatigued with the ride,
and had a severe cold besides, which prevented me
from commencing my examinations until the next
day, when I began. I finished them in three days,
and found them about what I had anticipated, though
the old scholars say they are more strict than they
ever have been before. As you can easily imagine,
I was much delighted to finish without failures, and
I came to the conclusion then, that I should not be
at all homesick, but the reaction left me as homesick
a girl as it is not usual to see. I am now quite con-
28 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1847
tented and am very much occupied in reviewing the
Junior studies, as I wish to enter the middle class.
The school is very large, and though quite a number
have left, on account of finding the examinations
more difficult than they anticipated, yet there are
nearly 300 now. Perhaps you know that Miss
Lyon is raising her standard of scholarship a good
deal, on account of the number of applicants this
year, and she makes the examinations more severe
You cannot imagine how trying they are, because
if we cannot go through them all in a specified time,
we are sent home. I cannot be too thankful that I
got through as soon as I did, and I am sure that I
never would endure the suspense which I endured
during those three days again for all the treasures of
I room with my cousin Emily, who is a Senior.
She is an excellent room-mate, and does all in her
power to make me happy. You can imagine how
pleasant a good room-mate is, for you have been
away to school so much. Everything is pleasant and
happy here, and I think I could be no happier at
any other school away from home. Things seem
much more like home than I anticipated, and the
teachers are all very kind and affectionate to us.
They call on us frequently and urge us to return
their calls, and when we do, we always receive a cor-
dial welcome from them. I will tell you my order
of time for the day, as you were so kind as to give
1847] TO MRS STRONG 29
me yours. At 6 o'clock we all rise. We breakfast
at 7. Our study hours begin at 8. At 9 we all meet
in Seminary Hall for devotions. At loj I recite a
review of Ancient History, in connection with which
we read Goldsmith and Grimshaw. At 11, I recite
a lesson in Pope's Essay on Man, which is merely
transposition. At 12 I practise calisthenics, and at
12J read until dinner, which is at 12 J, and after
dinner, from \\ until 2, I sing in Seminary Hall.
From 2 1 until 3J I practise upon the piano. At 3I
I go to Sections, where we give in all our accounts
for the day, including absence, tardiness, communi-
cations, breaking silent study hours, receiving com-
pany in our rooms, and ten thousand other things
which I will not take time or place to mention. At
4|- we go into Seminary Hall and receive advice from
Miss Lyon in the form of a lecture. We have supper
at 6, and silent study hours from then until the retir-
ing bell, which rings at 8 j, but the tardy bell does
not ring until 9I, so that we don't often obey the
first warning to retire. Unless we have a good and
reasonable excuse for failure upon any of the items
that I mentioned above, they are recorded and a
black mark stands against our names. As you can
easily imagine, we do not like very well to get * excep-
tions,' as they are called scientifically here.
My domestic work is not difficult and consists
in carrying the knives from the first tier of tables
at morning and noon, and at night washing and
wiping the same quantity of knives. I am quite
30 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1847
well and hope to be able to spend the year here,
free from sickness. You have probably heard many
reports of the food here ; and if so, I can tell you
that I have yet seen nothing corresponding to my
ideas on that point from what I have heard. Every-
thing is wholesome and abundant and much nicer
than I should imagine could be provided for almost
300 girls. We have also a great variety upon our
tables and frequent changes. One thing is certain,
and that is, that Miss Lyon and all the teachers
seem to consult our comfort and happiness in
everything they do, and you know that is pleasant.
When I left home I did not think I should find a
companion or a dear friend in all the multitude. I
expected to find rough and uncultivated manners,
and, to be sure, I have found some of that stamp,
but on the whole, there is an ease and grace, a desire
to make one another happy, which dehghts and at
the same time surprises me very much. I find no
Abby nor Abiah nor Mary, but I love many of the
girls. Austin came to see me when I had been here
about two weeks, and brought Viny and A. I need
not tell you how delighted I was to see them all, nor
how happy it made me to hear them say that 'they
were so lonely' It is a sweet feeling to know that
you are missed and that your memory is precious at
home. This week, on Wednesday, I was at my win-
dow, when I happened to look towards the hotel
and saw father and mother, walking over here as
dignified as you please. I need not tell you that I
1848] TO MRS STRONG 3 1
danced and clapped my hands, and flew to meet
them, for you can imagine how I felt. I will only
ask you, do you love your parents? They wanted
to surprise me, and for that reason did not let me
know they were coming. I could not bear to have
them go, but go they must, and so I submitted in
sadness. Only to think that in 2^ weeks I shall be
at my own dear home again. You will probably go
home at Thanksgiving time, and we can rejoice with
You don't [know] how I laughed at your descrip-
tion of your introduction to Daniel Webster, and I
read that part of your letter to cousin Emily. You
must feel quite proud of the acquaintance, and will
not, I hope, be vain in consequence. However, you
don't know Governor Briggs, and I do, so you are no
better off than I. . . . A., you must write me often,
and I shall write you as often as I have time. . . .
From your affectionate
Emily E. D.
Mt Holyoke Female Seminary, Jan. 17, 1848.
My dear a., — Your welcome epistle found me
upon the eve of going home, and it is needless to
say very happy. We all went home on Wednesday
before Thanksgiving, and a stormy day it was, but
the storm must not be in our way, so we tried to
make the best of it and look as cheerful as we
could. Many of the girls went very early in the
morning in order to reach home the same day, and
32 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1848
when we all sat down to the breakfast table, it
seemed lonely enough to see so many places vacant.
After breakfast, as we were not required to keep all
the family rules, a number of us met together at
one of the windows in the Hall to watch for our
friends, whom we were constantly expecting. No
morning of my Hfe ever passed so slowly to me, and
it really seemed to me they never were coming, so
impatiently did I wait their arrival. At last, almost
tired out, I spied a carriage in the distance, and
surely Austin was in it. You, who have been away
so much, can easily imagine my delight and will not
laugh, when I tell you how I dashed downstairs and
almost frightened my dignified brother out of his
senses. All was ready in a moment or less than a
moment, and cousin Emily and myself, not for-
getting the driver, were far on our way towards
home. The rain fell in torrents and the wind
howled around the sides of the mountain over our
heads, and the brooks below, filled by the rain,
rushed along their pebbly beds almost frightfully,
yet nothing daunted, we rode swiftly along, and
soon the colleges and the spire of our venerable
meeting-house rose to my delighted vision.
Never did Amherst look more lovely to me, and
gratitude rose in my heart to God, for granting me
such a safe return to my own dear home. Soon the
carriage stopped in front of our own house, and all
were at the door to welcome the returned one, from
mother, with tears in her eyes, down to pussy, who
1848] TO MRS STRONG 33
tried to look as gracious as was becoming her dignity.
Oh, A., it was the first meeting, as it had been the
first separation, and it was a joyful one to all of us.
The storm did not at all subside that night, but in
the morning I was waked by the glorious sunshine
[it] self, staring full in my face. We went to church
in the morning and listened to an excellent sermon
from our own minister, Mr Colton. At noon we
returned and had a nice dinner, which, you well
know, cannot be dispensed with on Thanksgiving
day. We had several calls in the afternoon, and
had four invitations out for the evening. Of course
we could not accept them all, much to my sorrow,
but decided to make two visits. At about 7 o'clock
father, mother, Austin, Viny, cousin Emily, and my-
self to bring up the rear, went down to Professor
Warner's, where we spent an hour delightfully with
a few friends, and then bidding them good eve, we
young folks went down to Mrs S. M.'s, accompanied
by sister Mary. There was quite a company of
young people assembled when we arrived, and after
we had played many games we had, in familiar terms,
a 'candy scrape.' We enjoyed the evening much,
and returned not until the clock pealed out, 'Remem-
ber ten o'clock, my dear, remember ten o'clock.'
After our return, father wishing to hear the piano,
I, like an obedient daughter, played and sang a few
tunes, much to his apparent gratification. We then
retired, and the next day and the next were as hap-
pily spent as the eventful Thanksgiving day itself.
34 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1848
You will probably think me foolish thus to give
you an inventory of my time while at home, but I
did enjoy so much in those short four days that
I wanted you to know and enjoy it too. Monday
came so soon, and with it came a carriage to our
door, and amidst tears falling thick and fast away I
went again. Slowly and sadly dragged a few of the
days after my return to the Seminary, and I was very
homesick, but * after a storm there comes a calm,'
and so it was in my case. My sorrows were soon
lost in study, and I again felt happy, if happiness
there can be away from * home, sweet home.'
Our term closes this week on Thursday, and Fri-
day I hope to see home and friends once more. I
have studied hard this term, and aside from my
delight at going home, there is a sweetness in ap-
proaching rest to me. This term is the longest in
the year, and I would not wish to live it over again,
I can assure you. I love this Seminary, and all the
teachers are bound strongly to my heart by ties of
affection. There are many sweet girls here, and
dearly do I love some new faces, but I have not
yet found the place of 2, few dear ones filled, nor
would I wish it to be here. I am now studying
Silliman's Chemistry and Cutter's Physiology, in both
of which I am much interested. We finish Physi-
ology before this term closes, and are to be examined
in it at the spring examinations, about five weeks
after the commencement of the next term. I
already begin to dread that time, for an examination
1848] TO MRS STRONG 35
in Mount Holyoke Seminary is rather more public
than in our old academy, and a failure would be
more disgraceful then, I opine ; but I hope, to use
my father's own words, 'that I shall not disgrace
myself.' What are you studying now? You did not
mention that item in your last letters to me, and
consequently I am quite in the dark as regards your
progress in those affairs. All I can say is, that I
hope you will not leave poor me far behind. . . .
Your affectionate sister^
Emily E. Dickinson.
P. S. Our Section have commenced reading com-
positions, and we read once in a month, during
which time we write two.
Intellectual brilliancy of an individual type
was already at seventeen her distinguishing
characteristic, and nothing of the recluse was
yet apparent. Traditions of extraordinary
compositions still remain ; and it is certain
that each was an epoch for those who heard,
whether teachers or pupils. An old friend
and schoolmate of Emily tells me that she
was always surrounded by a group of girls at
recess, to hear her strange and intensely funny
stories, invented upon the spot.
36 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1848
Mt Holyoke Female Seminary, May 16, 1848.
My dear a., — You must forgive me, indeed you
must, that I have so long delayed to write you, and
I doubt not you will when I give you all m.y reasons
for so doing. You know it is customary for the first
page to be occupied with apologies, and I must not
depart from the beaten track for one of my own
imagining. ... I had not been very well all winter,
but had not written home about it, lest the folks
should take me home. During the week following
examinations, a friend from Amherst came over and
spent a week with me, and when that friend returned
home, father and mother were duly notified of the
state of my health. Have you so treacherous a
Not knowing that I was to be reported at home, you
can imagine my amazement and consternation when
Saturday of the same week Austin arrived in full sail,
with orders from head-quarters to bring me home
at all events. At first I had recourse to words, and
a desperate battle with those weapons was waged
for a few moments, between my Sophofnore brother
and myself. Finding words of no avail, I next
resorted to tears. But woman's tears are of little
avail, and I am sure mine flowed in vain. As you
can imagine, Austin was victorious, and poor, de-
feated I was led off in triumph. You must not
imbibe the idea from what I have said that I do
not love home — far from it. But I could not bear
1848] TO MRS STRONG 37
to leave teachers and companions before the close
of the term and go home to be dosed and receive
the physician daily, and take warm drinks and be
condoled with on the state of health in general by
all the old ladies in town.
Have n't I given a ludicrous account of going
home sick from a boarding-school? Father is quite
a hand to give medicine, especially if it is not
desirable to the patient, and I was dosed for about
a month after my return home, without any mercy,
till at last out of mere pity my cough went away, and
I had quite a season of peace. Thus I remained
at home until the close of the term, comforting my
parents by my presence, and instilling many a les-
son of wisdom into the budding intellect of my only
sister. I had almost forgotten to tell you that I
went on with my studies at home, and kept up with
my class. Last Thursday our vacation closed, and
on Friday morn, midst the weeping of friends, crow-
ing of roosters, and singing of birds, I again took
my departure from home. Five days have now
passed since we returned to Holyoke, and they
have passed very slowly. Thoughts of home and
friends 'come crowding thick and fast, like light-
nings from the mountain cloud,' and it seems very
Father has decided not to send me to Holyoke
another year, so this is my last term. Can it be
possible that I have been here almost a year? It
startles me when I really think of the advantages I
38 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1848
have had, and I fear I have not improved them as
I ought. But many an hour has fled with its report
to heaven, and what has been the tale of me ? . . .
How glad I am that spring has come, and how it
calms my mind when wearied with study to walk out
in the green fields and beside the pleasant streams
in which South Hadley is rich ! There are not many
wild flowers near, for the girls have driven them to
a distance, and we are obliged to walk quite a dis-
tance to find them, but they repay us by their sweet
smiles and fragrance.
i The older I grow, the more do I love spring and
spring flowers. Is it so with you? While at home
there were several pleasure parties of which I was
a member, and in our rambles we found many and
beautiful children of spring, which I will mention
and see if you have found them, — the trailing arbu-
tus, adder's tongue, yellow violets, liver-leaf, blood-
root, and many other smaller flowers.
What are you reading now? I have little time to
read when I am here, but while at home I had a feast
in the reading line, I can assure you. Two or three
of them I will mention : Evangeline, The Princess,
The Maiden Aunt, The Epicurean, and The Twins
and Heaj't by Tupper, complete the list. Am not
I a pedant for telling you what I have been read-
ing ? Have you forgotten your visit at Amherst last
summer, and what delightful times we had ? I have
not, and I hope you will come and make another
and a longer, when I get home from Holyoke.
1850] TO MRS STRONG 39
Father wishes to have me at home a year, and then
he will probably send me away again, where I know
not. . . .
Ever your own affectionate
Emilie E. Dickinson.
P. S. My studies for this series are Astronomy
and Rhetoric, which take me through to the Senior
studies. What are you studying now, if you are in
school, and do you attend to music? I practise
only one hour a day this term.
Although nearly two years elapse between
the last letter and the following, the hand-
writing is quite unaltered, being still exceed-
ingly small and clear, and averaging twenty
words to a line.
Amherst, Jan. 29, 1850.
Very dear A., — The folks have all gone away ;
they thought that they left me alone, and contrived
things to amuse me should they stay long, and /
be lonely. Lonely, indeed, — they did n't look, and
they could n't have seen if they had, who should
bear me company. Th^'ee here, instead of one,
would n't it scare them ? A curious trio, part
earthly and part spiritual two of us, the other, all
heaven, and no earth. God is sitting here, looking
into my very soul to see if I think right thoughts.
Yet I am not afraid, for I try to be right and
40 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1850
good ; and He knows every one of my struggles. He
looks very gloriously, and everything bright seems dull
beside Him ; and I don't dare to look directly at
Him for fear I shall die. Then you are here,
dressed in that quiet black gown and cap, — that
funny little cap I used to laugh at you about, — and
you don't appear to be thinking about anything
in particular, — not in one of your breaking- dish
moods, I take it. You seem aware that I 'm
writing you, and are amused, I should think, at
any such friendly manifestation when you are al-
ready present. Success, however, even in making
a fool of myself, is n't to be despised ; so I shall
persist in writing, and you may in laughing at me, —
if you are fully aware of the value of time as regards
your immortal spirit. I can't say that I advise you
to laugh ; but if you are punished, and I warned
you, that can be no business of mine. So I fold
up my arms, and leave you to fate — may it deal
very kindly with you ! The trinity winds up with
me, as you may have surmised, and I certainly
would n't be at the fag-end but for civility to you.
This self-sacrificing spirit will be the ruin of me !
I am occupied principally with a cold just now,
and the dear creature will have so much attention
that my time slips away amazingly. It has heard
so much of New Englanders, of their kind atten-
tions to strangers, that it 's come all the way from
the Alps to determine the truth of the tale. It says
the half was n't told it, and I begin to be afraid it
1850J TO MRS STRONG 4 1
was n't. Only think — came all the way from that
distant Switzerland to find what was the truth ! Neither
husband, protector, nor friend accompanied it, and
so utter a state of loneliness gives friends if nothing
else. You are dying of curiosity ; let me arrange that
pillow to make your exit easier. I stayed at home
all Saturday afternoon, and treated some disagree-
able people who insisted upon calling here as toler-
ably as I could ; when evening shades began to fall, I
turned upon my heel, and walked. Attracted by
the gayety visible in the street, I still kept walking
till a little creature pounced upon a thin shawl I
wore, and commenced riding. I stopped, and
begged the creature to alight, as I was fatigued
already, and quite unable to assist others. It
would n't get down, and commenced talking to
itself: 'Can't be New England — must have made
some mistake — disappointed in my reception — don't
agree with accounts. Oh, what a world of decep-
tion and fraud ! Marm, will you tell me the name
of this country — it's Asia Minor, isn't it? I
intended to stop in New England.' By this time
I was so completely exhausted that I made no fur-
ther effort to rid me of my load, and travelled home
at a moderate jog, paying no attention whatever to
it, got into the house, threw off both bonnet and
shawl, and out flew my tormentor, and putting both
arms around my neck, began to kiss me immoder-
ately, and express so much love it completely
bewildered me. Since then it has slept in my bed.
42 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1850
eaten from my plate, lived with me everywhere,
and will tag me through life for all I know. I
think I '11 wake first, and get out of bed, and leave
it ; but early or late, it is dressed before me, and
sits on the side of the bed looking right into my
face with such a comical expression it almost makes
me laugh in spite of myself. I can't call it inter-
esting, but it certainly is curious, has two peculiar-
ities which would quite win your heart, — a huge
pocket-handkerchief and a very red nose. The
first seems so very abundant^ it gives you the idea
of independence and prosperity in business. The
last brings up the ^jovial bowl, my boys,' and such
an association 's worth the having. If it ever gets
tired of me, I will forward it to you — you would
love it for my sake, if not for its own ; it will tell
you some queer stories about me, — how I sneezed
so loud one night that the family thought the last
trump was sounding, and climbed into the currant-
bushes to get out of the way ; how the rest of the
people, arrayed in long night-gowns, folded their
arms, and were waiting ; but this is a wicked story,
— it can tell some better ones. Now, my dear
friend, let me tell you that these last thoughts are
fictions, — vain imaginations to lead astray foolish
young women. They are flowers of speech ; they
both make and tell deliberate falsehoods ; avoid
them as the snake, and turn aside as from the
rattle-snake, and I don't think you will be harmed.
Honestly, though, a snake-bite is a serious matter,
1850] TO MRS STRONG 43
and there can't be too much said or done about
it. The big serpent bites the deepest ; and we get
so accustomed to its bites that we don't mind
about them. * Verily I say unto you, fear him.^
Won't you read some work upon snakes ? — I have
a real anxiety for you. / love those little green
ones that slide around by your shoes in the grass,
and make it rustle with their elbows ; they are
rather my favorites on the whole ; but I would n't
influence you for the world. There is an air of
misanthropy about the striped snake that will com-
mend itself at once to your taste, — there is no
monotony about it — but we will more of this again.
Something besides severe colds and serpents, and
we will try to find that something. It can't be
a garden, can it? or a strawberry-bed, which rather
belongs to a garden; nor it can't be a school-
house, nor an attorney-at-law. Oh, dear ! I don't
know what it is. Love for the absent don't sound
like it ; but try it, and see how it goes.
I miss you very much indeed ; think of you at
night when the world 's nodding, nid, nid, nodding
— think of you in the daytime when the cares of the
world, and its toils, and its continual vexations
choke up the love for friends in some of our
hearts ; remember your warnings sometimes — try
to do as you told me sometimes — and sometimes
conclude it 's no use to try ; then my heart says it
is^ and new trial is followed by disappointment
again. I wondered, when you had gone, why we
44 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1S50
did n't talk more, — it was n't for want of a subject ;
it never could de for that. Too many, perhaps, —
such a crowd of people that nobody heard the
speaker, and all went away discontented. You
astonished me in the outset, perplexed me in the
continuance, and wound up in a grand snarl I
shall be all my pilgrimage unravelling. Rather a
dismal prospect certainly ; but * it 's always the
darkest the hour before day,' and this earher
sunset promises an earlier rise — a sun in splen-
dor — and glory, flying out of its purple nest.
Would n't you love to see God's bird, when it first
tries its wings? If you were here I would tell you
something — several somethings — which have hap-
pened since you went away; but time and space,
as usual, oppose themselves, and I put my treas-
ures away till ' we two meet again.' The hope
that I shall continue in love towards you, and vice
versa, will sustain me till then. If you are think-
ing soon to go away, and to show your face no
more, just inform me, will you? I would have the
' long, hngering look,' which you cast behind, — it
would be an invaluable addition to my treasures,
and ' keep your memory green.' ' Lord, keep
all our memories green,' and help on our affection,
and tie the Mink that doth us bind' in a tight
.bow-knot that will keep it from separation, and stop
us from growing old; if that is impossible, make
old age pleasant to us, put its arms around us
1850] TO MRS STRONG 45
kindly, and when we go home, let that home be
Your very sincere and wicked friend,
Emily E. Dickinson.'
I have n't thanked you for your letter yet, but not
for want of gratitude. I will do so now most sin-
cerely, most heartily — gladly and gratefully. You
will write me another soon, that I may have four
right feelings again ! They don't come for the
asking. I have been introducing you to me in this
letter so far ; we will traffic in ' joys ' and ' sor-
rows ' some other day. Colds make one very
carnal, and the spirit is always afraid of them. You
will excuse all mistakes in view of ignorance ; all
sin, in view of ' the fall ; ' all want of friendly affec-
tion, in the sight of the verse, * The deepest stream
the stillest runs ; ' and other general deficiencies, on
the ground of universal incapacity ! Here is surely
room for charity, and the heavenly visitor would n't
have come but for these faults. ' No loss without
a gain.' I called to see your cousins an evening
since ; they were well, and evidently delighted to
see one another — and us.
When your letter came, I had two Western
cousins — now at South Hadley Seminary — staying
their vacation with me. They took an unbounded
delight in a sentence I read them ; and to pay for
it, send you their love.
46 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1850
In the following letter appear farther traces
of the later and almost invariable custom of
using dashes, instead of conventional punctua-
tion. These, however, will not be given gen-
erally. In printing her poems it was found
necessary to employ usual punctuation, in order
that the meaning should be more easily ap-
prehended ; and in the letters the same system,
often for the same reason, has been adopted.
Amherst, May 7, 1850.
Dear Remembered, — The circumstances under
which I write you this morning are at once glorious,
afflicting, and beneficial, — glorious in ends, afflict-
ing in means, and beneficial, I trust, in both. Twin
loaves of bread have just been born into the world
under my auspices, — fine children, the image of
their mother; and here, my dear friend, is the
On the lounge, asleep, lies my sick mother, suf-
fering intensely from acute neuralgia, except at a
moment like this, when kind sleep draws near, and
beguiles her, — here is the affliction.
I need not draw the beneficial inference, — the
good I myself derive, the winning the spirit of
patience, the genial housekeeping influence stealing
over my mind and soul, — you know all these
things I would say, and will seem to suppose they
are written, when indeed they are only thought.
1850] TO MRS STRONG 47
On Sunday my mother was taken, had been per-
fectly well before, and could remember no possible
imprudence which should have induced the dis-
ease. Everything has been done, and though we
think her gradually throwing it off, she still has
much suffering. I have always neglected the cu-
linary arts, but attend to them now from neces-
sity, and from a desire to make everything pleasant
for father and Austin. Sickness makes desolation,
and the day is dark and dreary; but health will
come back, I hope, and light hearts and smiling
faces. We are sick hardly ever at home, and don't
know what to do when it comes, — wrinkle our
little brows, and stamp with our little feet, and
our tiny souls get angry, and command it to go
away. Mrs Brown will be glad to see it, — old
ladies expect to die ; ' as for us^ the young and
active, with all longings "for the strife," 7ve to
perish by the roadside, weary with the " march of
life " — no, no, my dear " Father Mortality," get
out of the way if you please ; we will call if we
ever want you. Good-morning, sir ! ah, good- y
morning ! '
When I am not at work, I sit by the side of
mother, provide for her little wants, and try to
cheer and encourage her. I ought to be glad and
grateful that I can do anything now, but I do feel
so very lonely, and so anxious to have her cured.
I have n't repined but once, and you shall know
all the why. At noon ... I heard a well-known
48 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1850
rap, and a friend I love so dearly came and asked
me to ride in the woods, the sweet, still woods,
— and I wanted to exceedingly. I told him I
could not go, and he said he was disappointed, he
wanted me very much. Then the tears came
into my eyes, though I tried to choke them back,
and he said I could and should go, and it seemed
to me unjust. Oh, I struggled with great temp-
tation, and it cost me much of denial ; but I think
in the end I conquered, — not a glorious victory,
where you hear the rolling drum, but a kind of
a helpless victory, where triumph would come of
itself, faintest music, weary soldiers, nor a waving
flag, nor a long, loud shout. I had read of Christ's
temptations, and how they were like our own, only
he did n't sin ; I wondered if one was like mine,
and whether it made him angry. I couldn't make
up my mind ; do you think he ever did ?
I went cheerfully round ray work, humming a
little air till mother had gone to sleep, then cried
with all my might — seemed to think I was much
abused — that this wicked world was unworthy such
devoted and terrible suffering — and came to my
various senses in great dudgeon at Hfe, and time, and
love for affliction and anguish.
What shall we do, my darling, when trial grows
more and more, when the dim, lone light expires,
and it 's dark, so very dark, and we wander, and
know not where, and cannot get out of the for-
est — whose is the hand to help us, and to lead,
1850] TO MRS STRONG 49
and forever guide us; they talk of a * Jesus of
Nazareth ' — will you tell me if it be he ? . . .
It 's Friday, my dear A., and that in another week,
yet my mission is unfulfilled — and you so sadly
neglected, and don't know the reason why. Where
do you think I Ve strayed, and from what new
errand returned ? I have come from ' to and fro,
and walking up and down ' the same place that
Satan hailed from, when God asked him where
he 'd been ; but not to illustrate further, I tell you
I have been dreaming, dreaming a golden dream,
with eyes all the while wide open, and I guess it 's
almost morning ; and besides, I have been at work,
providing the * food that perisheth,' scaring the
timorous dust, and being obedient and kind. I am
yet the Queen of the Court, if regalia be dust and
dirt, have three loyal subjects, whom I 'd rather
relieve from service. Mother is still an invalid,
though a partially restored one ; father and Austin
still clamor for food ; and I, like a martyr, am feed-
ing them. Would n't you love to see me in these
bonds of great despair, looking around my kitchen,
and praying for kind deliverance, and declaring by
* Omai's beard ' I never was in such plight ? My
kitchen, I think I called it — God forbid that it
was, or shall be, my own — God keep me from what
they call households, except that bright one of
' faith ' !
Don't be afraid of my imprecations — they never
did any one harm, and they make me feel so cool,
VOL. I. — 4
50 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1851
and so very much more comfortable ! . . . I
presume you are loving your mother, and loving
the stranger and wanderer — visiting the poor and
afflicted, and reaping whole fields of blessings —
save me a little sheaf, only a very little one ! Re-
member and care for me sometimes, and scatter a
fragrant flower in this wilderness life of mine by
writing me, and by not forgetting, and by lingering
longer in prayer, that the Father may bless one more !
Your affectionate friend,
Mr Humphrey, spoken of in the following
letter, is the same friend of whom Emily had
already written (page 34) ; he graduated from
Amherst as valedictorian in 1846, being subse-
quently Principal of the well-known Amherst
Academy, and still later a theological student
at Andover, and tutor in Amherst College.
His sudden death, November 30, 1850, caused
much grief to his many friends, who admired his
polished scholarship and lovable personality.
[Amherst, January 2, 1851.]
I write A. to-night, because it is cool and quiet,
and I can forget the toil and care of the feverish
day, and then I am selfish too, because I am feeling
lonely ; some of my friends are gone, and some of
my friends are sleeping — sleeping the churchyard
1851] TO MRS STRONG 5 1
sleep — the hour of evening is sad — it was once my
study hour — my master has gone to rest, and the
open leaf of the book, and the scholar at school
alone, make the tears come, and I cannot brush
them away; I would not if I could, for they are
the only tribute I can pay the departed Humphrey.
Yott have stood by the grave before ; I have walked
there sweet summer evenings and read the names
on the stones, and wondered who would come and
give me the same memorial ; but I never have laid
my friends there, and forgot that they too must die ;
this is my first affliction, and indeed 'tis hard to
bear it. To those bereaved so often that home is
no more here, and whose communion with friends
is had only in prayers, there must be much to hope
for, but when the unreconciled spirit has nothing left
but God, that spirit is lone indeed. I don't think
there will be any sunshine, or any singing-birds in
the spring that 's coming. ... I will try not to say
any more — my rebellious thoughts are many, and
the friend I love and trust in has much now to for-
give. I wish I were somebody else — I would pray
the prayer of the ' Pharisee,' but I am a poor little
'Publican.' 'Son of David,' look down on me !
'Twas a great while ago when you wrote me, I
remember the leaves were falling — and now there
are falling snows ; who maketh the two to differ —
are not leaves the brethren of snows?
Then it can't be a great while since then, though
I verily thought it was ; we are not so young as we
52 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1851
once were, and time seems to be growing long. I
dream of being a grandame, and banding my silver
hairs, and I seem to be quite submissive to the
thought of growing old ; no doubt you ride rocking-
horses in your present as in young sleeps — quite
a pretty contrast indeed, of me braiding my own
gray hairs, and my friend at play with her childhood,
a pair of decayed old ladies ! Where are you, my
antique friend, or my very dear and young one —
just as you please to please — it may seem quite
a presumption that I address you at all, knowing
^not if you habit here, or if my *bird has flown' in
which world her wing is folded. When I think of
the friends I love, and the little while we may
dwell here, and then 'we go away,' I have a yearn-
ing feeling, a desire eager and anxious lest any
be stolen away, so that I cannot behold them. I
would have you here, all here, where I can see you,
and hear you, and where I can say * Oh, no,' if the
*Son of Man' ever 'cometh' !
It is not enough, now and then, at long and uncer-
tain intervals to hear you 're alive and well. I do not
care for the body, I love the timid soul, the blush-
ing, shrinking soul ; it hides, for it is afraid, and the
bold, obtrusive body — Pray, marm, did you call
7ne ? We are very small, A. — I think we grow still
smaller — this tiny, insect life the portal to another ;
it seems strange — strange indeed. I 'm afraid we
are all unworthy, yet we shall ' enter in.'
I can think of no other way than for you, my dear
1851] TO MRS STRONG 53
girl, to come here — we are growing away from each
other, and talk even now like strangers. To forget
the ^meum and teum,' dearest friends must meet
sometimes, and then comes the ' bond of the spirit '
which, if I am correct, is 'unity.'
. . . You are growing wiser than I am, and nip-
ping in the bud fancies which I let blossom — per-
chance to bear no fruit, or if plucked, I may find it
bitter. The shore is safer, A., but I love to buffet
the sea — I can count the bitter wrecks here in these
pleasant waters, and hear the murmuring winds, but
oh, I love the danger ! You are learning control and
firmness. Christ Jesus will love you more. I 'm
afraid he don't love me any / . . . Write when you
will, my friend, and forget all amiss herein, for as
these few imperfect words to the full communion
of spirits, so this small giddy life to the better, the
life eternal, and that we may live this life, and be
filled with this true communion, I shall not cease to
* Yet a little while I am with you, and again a lit-
tle while and I am 7iot with you,' because you go to
your mother ! . . . But the virtue of the text con-
sists in this, my dear, that ' if I go, I come again,
and ye shall be with me where I am ; ' that is to say,
that if you come in November, you shall be mine,
and I shall be thine, and so on, vice versa, until ad
54 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1851
infinitiDn, which is n't a great way off. While I
think of it, my dear friend, and we are upon these
subjects, allow me to remark that you have the fun-
niest manner of popping into town, and the most
lamentable manner of popping out again, of any
one I know. It really becomes to me a matter of
serious moment, this propensity of yours concerning
your female friends — the ' morning cloud and the
early dew' are not more evanescent.
I think it was Tuesday evening that we were so
amused by the oratorical feats of three or four young
gentlemen. I remember I sat by you and took
great satisfaction in such seat and society — I re-
member further our mutual good-nights, our prom-
ises to meet again, to tell each other tales of our
own heart and life, to seek and find each other after
so long a time of distant separation. I can hardly
realize that these are recollections, that our happy
to-day joins the great band of yesterdays and marches
on to the dead — too quickly flown, my bird, for
me to satisfy me that you did sit and sing beneath
my chamber window ! I only went out once after
the time I saw you — the morning of Mr Beecher I
looked for you in vain. I discovered your Palmer
cousins, but if you indeed were there, it must have
been in a form to my gross sense impalpable. I
was disappointed. I had been hoping much a little
visit from you ; when will the hour be that we
shall sit together and talk of what we were and what
we are and may be — with the shutters closed, dear
1851] TO MRS STRONG 55
A., and the balmiest little breeze stealing in at the
window? I love those little fancies, yet I would
love them more were they not quite so fanciful as
they have seemed to be. I have fancied so many
times, and so many times gone home to find it was
only fancy, that I am half afraid to hope for what I
long for. It would seem, my dear A., that out of
all the moments crowding this Httle world, a few
might be vouchsafed to spend with those we love —
a separated hour, an hour more pure and true than
ordinary hours, when we could pause a moment,
before we journey on. We had a pleasant time talk-
ing the other morning — had I known it was all
my portion, mayhap I 'd improved it more, but it
never '11 come back again to try, whether or no.
Don't you think sometimes these brief, imperfect
meetings have a tale to tell — perhaps but for the
sorrow which accompanies them we should not be
reminded of brevity and change, and should build
the dwelling earthward whose site is in the skies —
perhaps the treasure here would be too dear a treas-
ure couldn't 'the moth corrupt, and the thief break
through and steal ; ' and this makes me think how
I found a little moth in my stores the other day,
a very subtle moth that had, in ways and man-
ners to me and mine unknown, contrived to hide
itself in a favorite worsted basket — how long my
little treasure-house had furnished an arena for its
destroying labors it is not mine to tell; it had an
errand there — I trust it fulfilled its mission ; it
56 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1851
taught me, dear A., to have no treasure here, or
rather it tried to tell me in its little mothy way of
another enduring treasure the robber cannot steal,
nor time waste away. Hovv many a lesson learned
from lips of such tiny teachers — don't it make you
think of the Bible, ' not many mighty, nor wise ' ?
You met our dear Sarah T. after I saw you here.
Her sweet face is the same as in those happy
school-days — and in vain I search for wrinkles
brought on by many cares ; we all love Sarah dearly,
and shall try to do all in our power to make her visit
happy. Isn't it very remarkable that in so many
years Sarah has changed so little — not that she has
stood still, but has made ^mq)s\ peaceful progress — her
thoughts, though they are older, have all the charm
of youth — have not yet lost their freshness, their in-
nocence and peace ; she seems so pure in heart, so
sunny and serene, like some sweet lark or robin,
ever soaring and singing. I have not seen her much
— I want to see her more — she speaks often oi you^
and with a warm affection. I hope no change or
time shall blight those loves of ours, I would bear
them all in my arms to my home in the glorious
heaven and say, 'Here am I, my Father, and those
whom thou hast given me.' If the life which is to
come is better than dwelling he7-e, and angels are
there and our friends are glorified and are singing
there and praising there, need we fear to go when
spirits beyond wait for us? I was meaning to see
you more and talk about such things with you — I
1852] TO MRS STRONG 57
want to know your views and your eternal feelings
— how things beyond are to you — oh, there is much
to speak of in meeting one you love, and it always
seems to me that I might have spoken more, and I
almost always think that what we found to say might
have been left unspoken.
Shall it always be so, A. ? Is there no longer day
given for our communion with the spirits of our
love? Writing is brief and fleeting — conversation
will come again, yet if it will, it hastes and must
be on its way. Earth is short, but Paradise is long
— there must be many moments in an eternal day ;
then sometime we shall tarry while time and tide roll
on, and till then vale.
Your own dear
[Written from Amherst between January i, and the middle of
June, 1852. J
My very dear A., — I love to sit here alone,
writing a letter to you, and whether your joy in
reading will amount to as much or more, or even
less than mine in penning it to you, becomes to me
just now a very important problem — and I will
tax each power to solve the same for me ; if as
happy, indeed, I have every occasion for gratitude
— more so, my absent friend, I may not hope to
make you, but I do hope most earnestly it may not
give you less. Oh, I do know it will not, if school-
58 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1852
day hearts are warm and school-day memories pre-
cious ! As I told you, it is Sunday to-day, so I find
myself quite curtailed in the selection of subjects,
being myself quite vain, and naturally adverting to
many worldly things which would doubtless grieve
and distress you : much more will I be restrained by
the fact that such stormy Sundays I always remain
at home, and have not those opportunities for hoard-
ing up great truths which I would have otherwise.
In view of these things. A., your kind heart will be
lenient, forgiving all empty words and unsatisfying
feelings on the Sabbath-day ground which we have
just alluded to. I rejoice in one theme appropriate
to every place and time — indeed it cannot intrude
in the hour most unseemly for every other thought
and every other feeling; and sure I am to-day, how-
e'er it may be holy, I shall not break or reproach
by speaking of the links which bind us to each
other, and make the very thought of you, and time
when I last saw you, a sacred thing to me. And
I have many memories, and many thoughts beside,
which by some strange entwining, circle you round
and round ; if you please, a vine of fancies, towards
which dear A. sustains the part of oak, and as up
each sturdy branch there climbs a litde tendril so
full of faith and confidence and the most holy trust,
so let the hearts do also, of the dear ' estray ; ' then
the farther we may be from home and from each
other, the nearer by that faith which ^ overcometh
all things ' and bringeth us to itself.
1852] TO MRS STRONG 59
Amherst and Philadelphia, separate indeed, and
yet how near, bridged by a thousand trusts and a
' thousand times ten thousand ' the travellers who
cross, whom you and I may not see, nor hear the
trip of their feet, yet faith tells us they are there,
ever crossing and re-crossing. Very likely. A., you
fancy me at home in my own little chamber, writing
you a letter, but you are greatly mistaken. I am
on the blue Susquehanna paddling down to you ; I
am not much of a sailor, so I get along rather slowly,
and I am not much of a mermaid, though I verily
think I shall be, if the tide overtakes me at my
present jog. Hard-hearted girl ! I don't believe
you care, if you did you would come quickly and
help me out of this sea ; but if I drown. A., and go
down to dwell in the seaweed forever and forever,
I will not forget your name, nor all the wrong you
did me !
Why did you go away and not come to see me?
I felt so sure you would come, because you prom-
ised me, that I watched and waited for you, and
bestowed a tear or two upon my absentee. How
very sad it is to have a confiding nature, one's hopes
and feelings are quite at the mercy of all who come
along ; and how very desirable to be a stolid indi-
vidual, whose hopes and aspirations are safe in
one's waistcoat pocket, and that a pocket indeed,
and one not to be picked !
Notwithstanding your faithlessness I should have
come to see you, but for that furious snow-storm ;
60 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1852
I did attempt in spite of it, but it conquered in
spite of me, and I doffed my hood and shawl, and
felt very crestfallen the remainder of the day. I
did want one more kiss, one sweet and sad good-by,
before you had flown away; perhaps, my dear A.,
it is well that I go without it ; it might have added
anguish to our long separation, or made the miles
still longer which keep a friend away. I always try
to think in any disappointment that had I been
gratified, it had been sadder still, and I weave from
such supposition, at times , considerable consolation ;
consolation upside down as I am pleased to call it.
. . . Shall I have a letter soon — oh, may I very
soon, for * some days are dark and dreary, and the
wind is never weary. '
[Also written before the middle of June, 1852.]
I love to link you, A. and E., I love to put you
together and look at you side by side — the pic-
ture pleases me, and I should love to watch it until
the sun goes down, did I not call to mind a very
precious letter for which I have not as yet rendered
a single farthing, so let me thank you that midst
your many friends and cares and influenzas, you yet
found time for me, and loved me. You remarked
that I had written you more affectionately than wont
— I have thought that word over and over, and it
puzzles me now; whether our few last years have
been cooler than our first ones, or whether I write
1852] TO MRS STRONG 6 1
indifferently when I truly know it not, the query
troubles me. I do believe sincerely, that the friend-
ship formed at school was no warmer than now, nay
more, that this is warmest — they, differ indeed to
me as morning differs from noon — one may be
fresher, cheerier, but the other fails not.
You and I have grown older since school-days,
and our years have made us soberer — I mean have
made me so, for you were always dignified, e'en
when a little girl, and / used, now and then, to
cut a timid caper. That makes me think of you
the very first time I sav/ you, and I can't repress
a smile, not to say a hearty laugh, at your little
girl expense. I have roused your curiosity, so I
will e'en tell you that one Wednesday afternoon,
in the days of that dear old Academy, I went in
to be entertained by the rhetoric of the gentlemen
and the milder form of the girls— I had hardly
recovered myself from the dismay attendant upon
entering august assemblies, when with the utmost
equanimity you ascended the stairs, bedecked with
dandelions, arranged, it seemed, for curls. I shall
never forget that scene, if I live to have gray hairs,
nor the very remarkable fancies it gave me then of
you, and it comes over me now with the strangest
bygone funniness, and I laugh merrily. Oh, A.,
you and the early flower are forever linked to me ;
as soon as the first green grass comes, up from a
chink in the stones peeps the little flower, precious
Meontodon,' and my heart fills toward you with a
62 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1852
warm and childlike fulness ! Nor do I laugh now ;
far from it, I rather bless the flower which sweetly,
slyly too, makes me come nearer you.
But, my dear, I can't give the dandelion the privi-
lege due to you, so good-by, little one !
I would love to see you, A., I would rather than
write to you, might I with equal ease, for the
weather is very warm, and my head aches a Uttle,
and my heart a little more, so taking me collectively,
I seem quite miserable, but I '11 give you the sunny
corners, and you must n't look at the shade. You
were happy when you wrote me ; I hope so now,
though I would you were in the country, and could
reach the hills and fields. I can reach them, carry
them home, which I do in my arms daily, and when
they drop and fade, I have only to gather fresh
ones. Your joy would indeed be full, could you
sit as I, at my window, and hear the boundless birds,
and every little while feel the breath of some new
flower ! Oh, do you love the spring, and is n't it
brothers and sisters, and blessed, ministering spirits
unto you and me, and us all ?
I often see A. — oftener than at sometimes when
friendship drooped a little. Did you ever know
that a flower, once withered and freshened again,
became an immortal flower, — that is, that it rises
again? I think resurrections here are sweeter, it
may be, than the longer and lasting one — for you
expect the one, and only hope for the other. . . .
I will show you the sunset if you will sit by me, but
1853] TO MRS STRONG 63
I cannot bring it there, for so much gold is heavy.
Can you see it in Philadelphia?
A rather long interval seems to have elapsed
between the preceding letter and the next,
which was written about July 26, probably
of 1853. The hand-writing is quite different
from the earlier letters, more resembling that
middle period of which an illustration is given
(page 218), yet still somewhat smaller.
The delicate and sunshiny sarcasm in this
note may be the more fully appreciated by
recalling that Emily Dickinson was not yet
twenty-two years old.
My dear Child, — Thank you for that sweet note
which came so long ago, and thank you for asking
me to come and visit you, and thank you for loving
me, long ago, and to-day, and too for all the sweet-
ness, and all the gentleness, and all the tenderness
with which you remember me, — your quaint, old-
I wanted very much to write you sooner, and I
tried frequently, but till now in vain, and as I write
to-night, it is with haste, and fear lest something still
detain me. You know, my dear A., that the sum-
mer has been wann, that at this pleasant season
we have much company, that this irresolute body
refuses to serve sometimes, and the indignant tenant
can only hold its peace, — all this you know, for I
64 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1853
have often told you, and yet I say it again, if may-
hap it persuades you that I do love you indeed, and
have not done neglectfully. ... I think it was in
June that your note reached here, and I did snatch
a moment to call upon your friend. Yet I went in
the dusk, and it was Saturday evening, so even then,
A., you see how cares pursued me. I found her
very lovely in what she said to me, and I fancied in
her face so, although the gentle dusk would draw
her curtain close, and I did n't see her clearly. We
talked the most of you, — a theme we surely loved,
or we had not discussed it in preference to all. I
would love to meet her again, and give my love to
her, for your sake. You asked me to come and see
you — I must speak of that. I thank you, A., but
I don't go from home, unless emergency leads me
by the hand, and then I do it obstinately, and draw
back if I can. Should I ever leave home, which is
improbable, I will, with much delight, accept your
invitation ; till then, my dear A., my warmest thanks
are yours, but don't expect me. I 'm so old-fash-
ioned, darling, that all your friends would stare. I
should have to bring my work-bag, and my big
spectacles, and I half forgot my grandchildren, and
my pincushion, and puss — why, think of it seri-
ously, A., — do you think it my duty to leave ? Will
you write me again ? Mother and Vinnie send their
love, and here 's a kiss from me.
To Mr William Austin Dickinson
THE following letters were written to
Emily Dickinson's brother between the
years 1847 and 1854, the earlier ones being
sent from South Hadley, while he was a student
in Amherst College. Later ones were written
at Amherst, and sent to Boston, where he had
charge of a school after graduation, 1851 and
1852; while the latest were addressed to Cam-
bridge during her brother's studies at the
Harvard Law School, 1853 and 1854. Dur-
ing these last two years their father, the
Hon. Edward Dickinson, was in Congress at
[South Hadley, Autumn, 1847.]
My dear Brother Austin, — I have not really
a moment of time in which to write you, and am
taking time from ' silent study hours ; ' but I am
determined not to break my promise again, and I
generally carry my resolutions into effect. I watched
you until you were out of sight Saturday evening,
VOL. I. — 5
66 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1847
and then went to my room and looked over my
treasures ; and surely no miser ever counted his
heaps of gold with more satisfaction than I gazed
upon the presents from home. . . .
I can't tell you now how much good your visit did
me. My spirits have wonderfully lightened since
then. I had a great mind to be homesick after you
went home, but I concluded not to, and therefore
gave up all homesick feelings. Was not that a wise
determination? . . .
There has been a menagerie here this week.
Miss Lyon provided ' Daddy Hawks ' as a beau
for all the Seminary girls who wished to see the
bears and monkeys, and your sister, not caring to
go, was obHged to decline the gallantry of said
gentleman, — which I fear I may never have an-
other opportunity to avail myself of. The whole
company stopped in front of the Seminary and
played for about a quarter of an hour, for the pur-
pose of getting custom in the afternoon, I opine.
Almost all the girls went ; and I enjoyed the solitude
I want to know when you are coming to see me
again, for I want to see you as much as I did before.
I went to see Miss F. in her room yesterday. . . '.
I love her very much, and think I shall love all the
teachers when I become better acquainted with
them and find out their ways, which, I can assure
you, are almost ' past finding out.'
I had almost forgotten to tell you of a dream
1847] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 6/
which I dreamed last night, and I would like to
have you turn Daniel and interpret it to me ; or if you
don't care about going through all the perils which
he did, I will allow you to interpret it without,
provided you will try to tell no lies about it. Well,
I dreamed a dream, and lo ! father had failed, and
mother said that ' our rye-field, which she and I
planted, was mortgaged to Seth Nims.' I hope it
is not true ; but do write soon and tell me, for you
know I should expire of mortification to have our
rye-field mortgaged, to say nothing of its falling into
the merciless hands of a loco !
Won't you please to tell me when you answer my
letter who the candidate for President is ? I have
been trying to find out ever since I came here, and
have not yet succeeded. I don't know anything
more about affairs in the world than if I were in
a trance, and you must imagine with all your
* Sophomoric discernment ' that it is but little and
very faint. Has the Mexican War terminated yet,
and how ? Are we beaten ? Do you know of any
nation about to besiege South Hadley? If so, do
inform me of it, for I would be glad of a chance to
escape, if we are to be stormed. I suppose Miss
Lyon would furnish us all with daggers and order us
to fight for our lives in case such perils should befall
us. . . . Miss F. told me if I was writing to Am-
herst to send her love. Not specifying to whom,
you may deal it out as your good sense and discretion
prompt. Be a good boy and mind me !
68 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1847
[South Hadley, November 2, 1847.]
My dear Brother Austin, — I have this mo-
ment finished my recitation in history, and have a
few minutes which I shall occupy in answering your
short but welcome letter. You probably heard that
I was alive and well yesterday, unless Mr E.
Dickinson was robbed of a note whose contents
were to that effect. But as robbers are not very
plenty now-a-days, I will have no forebodings on that
score, for the present. How do you get along with-
out me now, and does '■ it seem any more like a
funeral ' than it did before your visit to your humble
servant in this place? Answer me ! I want much
to see you all at home, and expect to three weeks
from to-morrow if nothing unusual, like a famine or
a pestilence, occurs to prevent my going home.
I am anticipating much in seeing you on this week
Saturday, and you had better not disappoint me !
for if you do, I will harness the * furies,' and pur-
sue you with * a whip of scorpions,' which is even
worse, you will find, than the Mong oat' which
you may remember. . . . Tell father I am obliged
to him much for his offers of pecuniary assistance,
but do not need any. We are furnished with
an account-book here, and obliged to put down
every mill which we spend, and what we spend it
for, and show it to Miss Whitman every Saturday ;
so you perceive your sister is learning accounts in
1847] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 69
addition to the other branches of her education.
I am getting along nicely in my studies, and am
happy, quite, for me.
Do write a long letter to
Your affectionate sister,
Enclosed with this was a delicately written
' bill of fare ' for one of the Seminary dinners.
SOUTH HADLEY SEMINARY
Nov. 2d, 1847
BILL OF FARE
Wheat and Brown Bread
Pepper and Salt
Is n't that a dinner fit to set before a king?
70 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1848
[South Hadley, December 11, 1847.]
Saturday, P. M.
My dear Brother Austin, — ... I finished my
examination in Euclid last evening, and without a
failure at any time. You can easily imagine how
glad I am to get through with four books, for you
have finished the whole forever. .. . . How are you
all at home, and what are you doing this vacation ?
You are reading Arabian Nights, according to Viny's
statement. I hope you have derived much bene-
fit from their perusal, and presume your powers of
imagining will vastly increase thereby. But I must
give you a word of advice too. Cultivate your other
powers in proportion as you allow imagination to
captivate you. Am not I a very wise young lady?
I had almost forgotten to tell you what my studies
are now — ' better late than never.' They are
Chemistry, Physiology, and quarter course in Al-
gebra. I have completed four studies already, and
am getting along well. Did you think that it was
my birthday yesterday? I don't believe I am
seventeen / . . .
From your affectionate sister,
[South Hadley, about February 14, 1848.]
My dear Austin, — You will perhaps imagine
from my date that I am quite at leisure, and can do
J 848] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 7 1
what I please even in the forenoon, but one of our
teachers, who is engaged, received a visit from her
intended quite unexpectedly yesterday afternoon,
and she has gone to her home to show him, I
opine, and will be absent until Saturday. As I
happen to recite to her in one of my studies, her
absence gives me a little time in which to write.
Your welcome letter found me all engrossed in
the study of sulphuric acid ! I deliberated for a
few moments after its reception on the propriety of
carrying it to Miss Whitman, your friend. The re-
sult of my deliberation was a conclusion to open it
with moderation, peruse its contents with sobriety
becoming my station, and if after a close investiga-
tion of its contents I found nothing which savored
of rebellion or an unsubdued will, I would lay it
away in my folio, and forget I had received it. Are
you not gratified that I am so rapidly gaining cor-
rect ideas of female propriety and sedate deport-
ment? After the proposed examination, finding it
concealed no dangerous sentiments, I with great
gravity deposited it with my other letters, and the
impression that I once had such a letter is entirely
obliterated by the waves of time.
I have been quite lonely since I came back, but
cheered by the thought that I am not to return
another year, I take comfort, and still hope on.
My visit at home was happy, very happy to me ;
and had the idea of in so short a time returning been
constantly in my dreams by night and day, I could
72 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1848
not have been happier. ' There is no rose without
a thorn' to me. Home was always dear to me,
and dearer still the friends around it; but never
did it seem so dear as now. All, all are kind to
me, but their tones fall strangely on my ear, and
their countenances meet mine not like home-faces,
I can assure you most sincerely. Then when
tempted to feel sad, I think of the blazing fire and
the cheerful meal and the chair empty now I am
gone. I can hear the cheerful voices and the
merry laugh, and a desolate feeling comes home to
my heart, to think I am alone. But my good angel
only waits to see the tears coming and then
whispers, ' Only this year ! only twenty-two weeks
more, and then home again you will be to stay.'
To you, all busy and excited, I suppose the time
flies faster ; but to me slowly, very slowly, so that
I can see his chariot wheels when they roll along,
and himself is often visible. But I will no longer
imagine, for your brain is full of Arabian Nights'
fancies, and it will not do to pour fuel on your
already kindled imagination. . . .
I suppose you have written a few and received a
quantity of valentines this week. Every night have
I looked, and yet in vain, for one of Cupid's mes-
sengers. Many of the girls have received very
beautiful ones ; and I have not quite done hoping
for one. Surely my friend Thofnas has not lost all
his former affection for me ! I entreat you to tell
him I am pining for a valentine. I am sure I
1848] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON y^
shall not very soon forget last Valentine week, nor
any the sooner the fun I had at that time. . . .
Monday afternoon Mistress Lyon arose in the hall,
and forbade our sending ' any of those foolish notes
called valentines.' But those who were here last
year, knowing her opinions, were sufficiently cun-
ning to write and give them into the care of D.
during the vacation; so that about 150 were de-
spatched on Valentine morn, before orders should
be put down to the contrary effect. Hearing of
this act, Miss Whitman, by and with the advice and
consent of the other teachers, with frowning brow,
sallied over to the Post Office to ascertain, if pos-
sible, the number of the valentines, and worse
still, the names of the offenders. Nothing has yet
been heard as to the amount of her information,
but as D. is a good hand to help the girls, and no
one has yet received sentence, we begin to think her
mission unsuccessful. I have not written one, nor
do I intend to.
Your injunction to pile on the wood has not been
unheeded, for we have been obliged to obey it to
keep from freezing up. . . . We cannot have much
more cold weather, I am sure, for spring is near.
. . . Professor Smith preached here last Sabbath,
and such sermons I never heard in my life. We
were all charmed with him, and dreaded to have
him close. . . .
Your affectionate sister,
74 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1848
(South Hadley, late May, 1848.]
My dear Austin, — T received a letter from home
on Saturday by Mr G S , and father wrote
in it that he intended to send for cousin Emily and
myself on Saturday of this week to spend the Sab-
bath at home. I went to Miss Whitman, after receiv-
ing the letter, and asked her if we could go if you
decided to come for us. She seemed stunned by my
request, and could not find utterance to an answer
for some time. At length she said, * Did you not
know it was contrary to the rules of the Seminary to
ask to be absent on the Sabbath ? ' I told her I did
not. She then took a Catalogue from her table, and
showed me the law in full at the last part of it. She
closed by saying that we could liot go, and I returned
to my room without farther ado. So you see I shall
be deprived of the pleasure of a visit home, and you
that of seeing me, if I may have the presumption to
call it a pleasure ! The teachers are not willing to
let the girls go home this term as it is the last one,
and as I have only nine weeks more to spend here,
we had better be contented to obey the commands.
We shall only be the more glad to see one another
after a longer absence, that will be all. I was highly
edified with your imaginative note to me, and think
your flights of fancy indeed wonderful at your age !
When are you coming to see me — it would be very
pleasant to us to receive a visit from your highness
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 75
if you can be absent from home long enough for such
a purpose. ... I can't write longer.
Your affectionate sister,
The next letter was written three years later,
and sent to Boston.
[Amherst, early in 1851.J
It might not come amiss, dear Austin, to have a tid-
ing or two concerning our state and feelings, particu-
larly when we remember that 'Jamie has gone awa'.'
Our state is pretty comfortable, and our feelings
are somewhat solemn, which we account for satis-
factorily by calling to mind the fact that it is the
Sabbath day. Whether a certain passenger in a cer-
tain yesterday's stage has any sombre effect on our
once merry household or the reverse, 'I dinna choose
to tell,' but be the case as it may, we are rather a
crestfallen company, to make the best of us, and
what with the sighing wind, the sobbing rain, and
the whining of Nature generally, we can hardly con-
tain ourselves, and I only hope and trust that your
this-evening's-lot is cast in far more cheery places
than the ones you leave behind.
We are enjoying this evening what is called a
* northeast storm' — a little north of east in case
you are pretty definite. Father thinks it 's ' amazin'
raw,' and I 'm half disposed to think that he 's in the
right about it, though I keep pretty dark and don't
y^ LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1851
say much about it ! Vinnie is at the instrument,
humming a pensive air concerning a young lady who
thought she was 'almost there.' Vinnie seems much
grieved, and I really suppose / ought to betake my-
self to weeping ; I 'm pretty sure that I shall if she
don't abate her singing.
Father's just got home from meeting and Mr
Boltwood's, found the last quite comfortable and
the first not quite so well. . . . There has been not
much stirring since when you went away — I should
venture to say prudently that matters had come to a
stand — unless something new 'turns up,' I cannot
see anything to prevent a quiet season. Father takes
care of the doors and mother of the windows, and
Vinnie and I are secure against all outward attacks.
If we can get our hearts 'under,' I don't have much
to fear — I 've got all but three feelings down, if I
can only keep them ! . . .
I shall think of you to-morrow with four and twenty
Irish boys all in a row. I miss you very much — I
put on my bonnet to-night, opened the gate very
desperately, and for a little while the suspense was
terrible — I think I was held in check by some
invisible agent, for I returned to the house without
having done any harm !
If I hadn't been afraid that you would 'poke
fun' at my feelings, I had written a sincere letter,
but since 'the world is hollow, and doUie 's stuffed
with sawdust,' I really do not think we had better
expose our feelings. . . .
Your dear sister, Emily.
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 77
I received your letter, Austin, permit me to thank
you for it and to request some more as soon as it 's
convenient — permit me to accord with your dis-
creet opinion concerning Swedish Jennie, and to com-
mend the heart brave enough to express it — com-
bating the opinion of two civihzed worlds and New
York into the bargain must need considerable daring
— indeed, it had never occurred to me that amidst
the hallelujahs one tongue would dare be dumb, and
much less, I assure you, that this dissenting one
should be my romantic brother ! For I had looked
for delight and a very high style of rapture in such a
youth as you. . . .
We have all been rather piqued at Jennie's singing
so well, and this first calumnious whisper pleases us
so well, we rejoice that we did n't come — our visit
is yet before us. . . . You haven't told us yet as
you promised about your home — what kind of peo-
ple they are — whether you find them pleasant —
whether those timid gentlemen have yet 'found
tongues to say.' Do you find the life and living any
more annoying than you at first expected — do you
light upon any friends to help the time away — have
you whipped any more bad boys — all these are
solemn questions, pray give them proper heed !
Two weeks of your time are gone ; I can't help
wondering sometimes if you would love to see us,
78 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1851
and come to this still home. ... A Senior levee
was held at Professor and Mrs Haven's on Tuesday
of last week — Vinnie played pretty well. There 's
another at the President's this next Friday evening.
Clarum et venerabile Seniors !
[Amherst, March, 1851.I
... It 's a glorious afternoon — the sky is blue
and warm — the wind blows just enough to keep the
clouds sailing, and the sunshine — oh such sunshine !
It isn't like gold, for gold is dim beside it; it isn't
like anything which you or I have seen ! It seems
to me 'Ik Marvel' was born on such a day; I only
wish you were here. Such days were made on pur-
pose for you and me ; then what in the world are
you gone for? Oh, dear, I do not know, but this I
do know, that if wishing would bring you home, you
were here to-day. Is it pleasant in Boston? Of
course it isn't, though. I might have known more
than to make such an inquiry. No doubt the streets
are muddy, and the sky some dingy hue, and I can
think just how everything bangs and rattles, and
goes rumbling along through stones and plank and
clay ! I don't feel as if I could have you there, pos-
sibly, another day. I'm afraid you'll turn into a
bank, or a Pearl Street counting-room, if you have
not already assumed some monstrous shape, living
in such a place.
Let me see — April; three weeks until April —
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 79
the very first of April — well, perhaps that will do,
only be sure of the week, the whole week, and noth-
ing but the week. If they make new arrangements,
give my respects to them, and tell them old arrange-
ments are good enough for you, and you will have
them ; then if they raise the wind, why, let it blow
— there 's nothing more excellent than a breeze
now and then !
What a time we shall have Fast day, after we get
home from meeting — why, it makes me dance to
think of it; and Austin, if I dance so many days
beforehand, what will become of me when the hour
really arrives? I don't know, I 'm sure ; and I don't
care, much, for that or for anything else but get you
home. . . . Much love from mother and Vinnie ;
we are now pretty well, and our hearts are set on
April, the very first of April !
[Amherst, late March, 185 1.]
Dear Austin, — ... I have read Ellen Middle-
ton, I need n't tell you I like it, nor need I tell
you more, for you know already.
I thank you more and more for all the pleasures
you give me — I can give you nothing, Austin, but
a warm and grateful heart that is yours now and
always. Love from all.
Only think, you are coming Saturday ! I don't
80 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1851
know why it is that it 's always Sunday immediately
you get home. I will arrange it differently. If it
was n't twelve o'clock I would stay longer.
[Amherst, June 16, 185 1.]
. . . I 'm glad you are so well pleased, I 'm glad
you are not delighted. I would not that foreign
places should wear the smile of home. We are
quite alarmed for the boys — hope you won't kill or
pack away any of 'em — so near Dr Webster's bones
't is not strange you have had temptations ! . . .
The country 's still just now, and the severities al-
luded to will have a salutary influence in waking the
people up. Speaking of getting tip, how early are
metropolitans expected to wake up, especially young
men — more especially school-masters ? I miss my
'department' mornings. I lay it quite to heart that
I 've no one to wake up. Your room looks lonely
enough, I do not love to go in there ; whenever I
pass through I find I 'gin to whistle, as we read that
little boys are wont to do in the graveyard. I am
going to set out crickets as soon as I find time,
that they by their shrill singing shall help disperse
the gloom ; will they grow if I transplant them ?
You importune me for news ; I am very sorry to say
* Vanity of vanities ' there 's no such thing as news
— it is almost time for the cholera, and then things
will take a start ! ... All of the folks send love.
i85t] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 8 1
[July 5, 1851.]
I have just come in from church very hot and
faded. . . . Our church grows interesting — Zion
hfts her head — I overhear remarks signifying Jeru-
salem, — I do not feel at liberty to say any more
... I wanted to write you Friday, the night of
Jennie Lind, but reaching home past midnight, and
my room sometime after, encountering several perils
starting and on the way, among which a kicking
horse, an inexperienced driver, a number of Jove's
thunderbolts, and a very terrible rain, are worthy to
have record. All of us went — just four — add an
absent individual and that will make full five. The
concert commenced at eight, but knowing the world
was hollow we thought we 'd start at six, and come
up with everybody that meant to come up with us ;
we had proceeded some steps when one of the
beasts showed symptoms ; and just by the black-
smith's shop exercises commenced, consisting of
kicking and plunging on the part of the horse, and
whips and moral suasion from the gentleman who
drove — the horse refused to proceed, and your
respected family with much chagrin dismounted,
advanced to the hotel, and for a season halted ;
another horse procured, we were politely invited to
take our seats, and proceed, which we refused to do
till the animal was warranted. About half through
VOL. I. — 6
82 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [185 1
our journey thunder was said to be heard, and a
suspicious cloud came travelHng up the sky. What
words express our horror when rain began to fall,
in drops, sheets, cataracts — what fancy conceive
of drippings and of drenchings which we met on
the way ; how the stage and its mourning captives
drew up at Warner's Hotel ; how all of us alighted,
and were conducted in, — how the rain did not
abate, — how we walked in silence to the old Ed-
wards church^ and took our seats in the same —
how Jennie came out like a child and sang and sang
again — how bouquets fell in showers, and the roof
was rent with applause — how it thundered outside,
and inside with the thunder of God and of men —
judge ye which was the loudest ; how we all loved
Jennie Lind, but not accustomed oft to her manner
of singing did n't fancy that so well as we did her.
No doubt it was very fine, but take some notes from
her Echo, the bird sounds from the Bird Song, and
some of her curious trills, and I 'd rather have a
He7'self and not her music was what we seemed
to love — she has an air of exile in her mild blue
eyes, and a something sweet and touching in her
native accent which charms her many friends. Give
me my thatched cottage as she sang she grew so
earnest she seemed half lost in song, and for a tran-
sient time I fancied she had found it and would be
1 Evidently a slip of the pen, as Jenny Lind sang in the
old First Church at Northampton on that occasion.
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 83
seen * na mair ; ' and then her foreign accent made
her again a wanderer — we will talk about her some-
time when you come. Father sat all the evening
looking mad, and yet so much amused you would
have died a-laughing. ... It wasn't sarcasm ex-
actly, nor it was n't disdain, it was infinitely funnier
than either of those virtues, as if old Abraham
had come to see the show, and thought it was all
very well, but a little excess of monkey / She took
;^4,ooo for tickets at Northampton aside from all
expenses. . . .
About our coming to Boston — we think we shall
probably come — we want to see our friends, your-
self and Aunt L.'s family. We don't care a fig
for the Museum, the stillness, or Jennie Lind. . . .
Love from us all.
Your affectionate sister,
[Late July, 185 1.]
. . . Oh how I wish I could see your world and
its little kingdoms, and I wish I could see the king
— Stranger ! he was my brother ! I fancy little boys
of several little sizes, some of them clothed in blue
cloth, some of them clad in gray — I seat them
round on benches in the school-room of my mind
— then I set them all to shaking — on peril of their
lives that they move their lips or whisper; then
I clothe you with authority and empower you to
84 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1851
punish, and to enforce the law, I call you ^ Rabbi,
Master,' and the picture is complete ! It would
seem very funny, say for Vinnie and me to come
round as Committee — we should enjoy the terrors
of fifty little boys, and any specimens of discipline
in your way would be a rare treat for us. I should
love to know how you managed — whether govern-
ment as a science is laid down and executed, or
whether you cuff and thrash as the occasion dic-
tates ; whether you use pure law as in the case of
commanding, or whether you enforce it by means of
sticks and stones as in the case of agents. I sup-
pose you have authority bounded but by their lives.
... I should think you 'd be tired of school and
teaching and such hot weather. I really wish you
were here, and the Endicott school where you found
it. Whenever we go to ride in our beautiful family
carriage we think if * wishes were horses ' we four
' beggars would ride.' We shall enjoy brimful every-
thing now but half full, and to have you home once
more will be like living again.
We are having a pleasant summer — without one
of the five it is yet a lonely one. Vinnie says some-
times — Didn't we have a brother — it seems to me
we did, his name was Austin — we call but he
answers not again — echo, Where is Austin ? laugh-
ing, '' Where is Austin ?'...! wish they need not
exhibit just for once in the year, and give you up
on Saturday instead of the next week Wednesday;
but keep your courage up and show forth those
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 85
Emerald Isles till school committees and mayors
are blinded with the dazzling ! Would n't I love to
be there ! . . .
Our apples are ripening fast. I am fully con-
vinced that with your approbation they will not only
pick themselves, but arrange one another in baskets
and present themselves to be eaten.
Love from all.
At my old stand again, dear Austin, and happy
as a queen to know that while I speak those whom
I love are listening, and I am happier still if I shall
make them happy.
I have just finished reading your letter which was
brought in since church. I like it grandly — very
— because it is so long, and also it 's so funny — we
have all been laughing till the old house rung again
at your delineation of men, women, and things. I
feel quite like retiring in presence of one so grand,
and casting my small lot among small birds and
fishes; you say you don't comprehend me, you
want a simpler style — gratitude indeed for all my
fine philosophy ! I strove to be exalted, thinking I
might reach you, and while I pant and struggle and
climb the nearest cloud, you walk out very leisurely
in your sHppers from Empyrean, and without the
slightest notice, request me to get down ! As sim-
ple as you please, the simplest sort of simple — I '11
86 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [185 1
be a little ninny, a little pussy catty, a little Red
Riding Hood ; I '11 wear a bee in my bonnet, and
a rose-bud in my hair, and what remains to do
you shall be told hereafter.
Your letters are richest treats, send them always
just such warm days — they are worth a score of
fans and many refrigerators — the only difficulty
they are so queer, and laughing such hot weather is
anything but amusing. A little more of earnest,
and a little less of jest until we are out of August,
and then you may joke as freely as the father of
rogues himself, and we will banish care, and daily
die a-laughing !
It is very hot here now ; I don 't believe it 's any
hotter in Boston than it is here. . . . Vinnie suggests
that she may sometimes occur to mind when you
would like more collars made. I told her I would n't
tell you — I have n't, however, decided whether I
will or not.
I often put on five knives and forks, and another
tumbler, forgetting for the moment that * we are
not all here.' It occurs to me, however, and I
remove the extra, and brush a tear away in memory
of my brother.
We miss you now and always. When God be-
stows but three, and one of those is withdrawn,
the others are left alone. . . . Father is as uneasy
when you are gone away as if you catch a trout
and put him in Sahara. When you first went away
he came home very frequently — walked gravely
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 8/
towards the barn, and returned looking very stately
— then strode away down street as if the foe was
coming; now he is more resigned — contents him-
self by fancying that *we shall hear to-day,' and
then when we do not hear, he wags his head pro-
found, and thinks without a doubt there will be
news * to-morrow.' * Once one is two,' once one will
be two — ah, I have it here !
I wish you could have some cherries — if there
was any way we would send you a basket of them —
they are very large and delicious, and are just ripen-
ing now. Little Austin Grout comes every day to
pick them, and mother takes great comfort in call-
ing him by name, from vague association with her
departed boy. Austin, to tell the truth, it is very
still and lonely — I do wish you were here. . . .
The railroad is 'a-workin'.' My love to all my
friends. I am on my way downstairs to put the
tea-kettle boiling — writing and taking tea cannot
sympathize. If you forget me now, your right hand
shall its cunning.
[Written after a visit of the sisters in Boston. Amherst,
September 24, 1851.]
We have got home, dear Austin. It is very lonely
here — I have tried to make up my mind which was
better, home and parents and country, or city and
smoke and dust shared with the only being whom I
88 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1851
can call my brother. The scales don't poise very
evenly, but so far as I can judge, the balance is in
your favor. The folks are much more lonely than
while we were away — they say they seemed to feel
that we were straying together and together would
return, and the unattended sisters seemed very sad
to them. . . . They have had a number of friends
to call and visit with them. Mother never was
busier than while we were away — what with fruit
and plants and chickens and sympathizing friends
she really was so hurried she hardly knew what
Vinnie and I came safely, and met with no mishap
— the bouquet was not withered nor was the bottle
cracked. It was fortunate for the freight car that
Vinnie and I were there, ours being the only bag-
gage passing along the line. The folks looked very
funny who travelled with us that day — they were dim
and faded, like folks passed away — the conductor
seemed so grand with' about half a dozen tickets
which he dispersed and demanded in a very small
space of time — I judged that the minority were
travelling that day, and could n't hardly help smiling
at our ticket friend, however sorry I was at the small
amount of people passing along his way. He looked
as if he wanted to make an apology for not having
more travellers to keep him company.
The route and the cars seemed strangely — there
were no boys with fruit, there were no boys with
pamphlets; one fearful little fellow ventured into
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 89
the car with what appeared to be pubUcations and
tracts ; he offered them to no one, and no one
inquired for them, and he seemed greatly reUeved
that no one wanted to buy them. . . . Mother sends
much love, and Vinnie.
Your lonely sister,
[Amherst, Autumn, 185 1.]
Dear Austin, — I 've been trying to think this
morning how many weeks it was since you went
away — I fail in calculations; it seems so long to
me since you went back to school that I set down
days for years, and weeks for a score of years — not
reckoning time by minutes, I don't know what to
think of such great discrepancies between the actual
hours and those which 'seem to be.' It may seem
long to you since you returned to Boston — how
I wish you would stay and never go back again.
Everything is so still here, and the clouds are cold
and gray — I think it will rain soon. Oh, I am so
lonely ! . . . You had a windy evening going back
to Boston, and we thought of you many times and
hoped you would not be cold. Our fire burned so
cheerfully I couldn't help thinking of how many
were here, and how many were away, and I wished
so many times during that long evening that the
door would open and you come walking in. Home
is a holy thing, — nothing of doubt or distrust can
90 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON . [1851
enter its blessed portals. I feel it more and more as
the great world goes on, and one and another for-
sake in whom you place your trust, here seems in-
deed to be a bit of Eden which not the sin of any
can utterly destroy, — smaller it is indeed, and it
may be less fair, but fairer it is and brighter than
all the world beside.
I hope this year in Boston will not impair your
health, and I hope you will be as happy as you used
to be before. I don't wonder it makes you sober to
leave this blessed air — if it were in my power I
would on every morning transmit its purest breaths
fragrant and cool to you. How I wish you could
have it — a thousand little winds waft it to me
this morning, fragrant with forest leaves and bright
autumnal berries. I would be willing to give you
my portion for to-day, and take the salt sea's breath
in its bright, bounding stead. . . .
. . . Mother sends her love and your waistcoat,
thinking you '11 like the one, and quite likely need
[Amherst, October 2, 1851.]
We are just through dinner, Austin, I want to write
so much that I omit digestion, and a dyspepsia will
probably be the result. ... I received your letter
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 9I
yesterday. . . . You say we must n't trouble to send
you any fruit, also your clothes must give us no
uneasiness. I don't ever want to have you say any
more such things. They make me feel like crying.
If you 'd only teased us for it, and declared that you
would have it, I should n't have cared so much that
we could find no way to send you any, but you
resign so cheerfully your birthright of purple grapes,
and do not so much as murmur at the departing
peaches, that I hardly can taste the one or drink the
juice of the other. They are so beautiful, Austin, —
we have such an abundance 'while you perish with
I do hope some one will make up a mind to go
before our peaches are quite gone. The world is
full of people travelling everywhere, until it occurs to
you that you will send an errand, and then by ' hook
or crook' you can't find any traveller who, for money
or love, can be induced to go and carry the oppro-
brious package. It 's a very selfish age, that is all I
can say about it. Mr Storekeeper S has been
'almost persuaded' to go, but I believe he has put
it off 'till a more convenient season,' so to show
my disapprobation I sha'n't buy any more gloves at
Mr S 's store ! Don't you think it will seem
very cutting to see me pass by his goods and pur-
chase at Mr K 's? I don't think I shall retract
should he regret his course and decide to go to-
morrow, because it is the principle of disappointing
people which I disapprove ! . . .
92 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1851
The peaches are very large — one side a rosy
cheek, and the other a golden, and that peculiar
coat of velvet and of down which makes a peach so
beautiful. The grapes, too, are fine, juicy, and such
a purple — I fancy the robes of kings are not a tint
more royal. The vine looks like a kingdom, with
ripe round grapes for kings, and hungry mouths for
subjects — the first instance on record of subjects
devouring kings ! You shall have some grapes, dear
Austin, if I have to come on foot in order to bring
them to you.
The apples are very fine — it is n't quite time to
pick them — the cider is almost done — we shall
have some I guess by Saturday, at any rate Sunday
noon. The vegetables are not gathered, but will be
before very long. The horse is doing nicely; he
travels ' like a bird ' to use a favorite phrase of your
delighted mother's. You ask about the leaves —
shall I say they are falling? They had begun to fall
before Vinnie and I came home, and we walked up
the steps through little brown ones rustling. . . .
Vinnie tells me she has detailed the news — she
reserved the deaths for me, thinking I might fall
short of my usual letter somewhere. In accordance
with her wishes I acquaint you with the decease of
your aged friend Deacon . He had no disease
that we know of, but gradually went out. . . . Mon-
day evening we were all startled by a violent church-
bell ringing, and thinking of nothing but fire, rushed
out in the street to see. The sky was a beautiful
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 93
red, bordering on a crimson, and rays of a gold pink
color were constantly shooting off from a kind of sun
in the centre. People were alarmed at this beautiful
phenomenon, supposing that fires somewhere were
coloring the sky. The exhibition lasted for nearly
fifteen minutes, and the streets were full of people
wondering and admiring. Father happened to see
it among the very first, and rang the bell himself to
call attention to it. You will have a full account
from the pen of Mr Trumbull, who, I have not a
doubt, was seen with a long lead pencil a-noting
down the sky at the time of its highest glory. . . .
You will be here now so soon — we are impatient
for it — we want to see you, Austin, how much I
cannot say here.
[Amherst, early October, 1851.]
Dear Austin, — ... I would not spend much
strength upon those little school-boys — you will
need it all for something better and braver after you
get away. It would rejoice my heart if on some
pleasant morning you'd turn the school-room key
on Irish boys, nurse and all, and walk away to free-
dom and the sunshine here at home. Father says
all Boston would n't be a temptation to you another
year — I wish it would not tempt you to stay another
day. Oh, Austin, it is wrong to tantalize you so while
94 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [185 1
you are braving all things in trying to fulfil duty.
Duty is black and brown — home is bright and shin-
ing, ' and the spirit and the bride say come, and let
him that' wandereth come, for 'behold all things
are ready.' We are having such lovely weather —
the air is as sweet and still — now and then a gay
leaf falling — the crickets sing all day long — high
in a crimson tree a belated bird is singing — a
thousand little painters are tingeing hill and dale. I
admit now, Austin, that autumn is most beautiful,
and spring is but the least, yet they * differ as
stars' in their distinctive glories. How happy if you
were here to share these pleasures with us — the
fruit should be more sweet, and the dying day more
golden — merrier the falling nut if with you we
gathered it and hid it down deep in the abyss of
basket ; but you complain not, wherefore do we ?
Tuesday evening we had a beautiful time reading
and talking of the good times of last summer, and
we anticipated — boasted ourselves of to-morrow —
of the future we created, and all of us went to ride
in an air-bubble for a carriage. We cherish all the
past, we glide a-down the present, awake yet dream-
ing; but the future of ours together — there the bird
sings loudest, and the sun shines always there. . . .
I had a dissertation from E. C. a day or two ago
— don't know which was the author, Plato or Soc-
rates — rather think Jove had a finger in it. . . .
They all send their love. Vinnie sends hers. How
soon you will be here ! Days, flee away — 'lest with
1 851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 95
a whip of scorpions I overtake your lingering.' I am
in a hurry — this pen is too slow for me — * it hath
done what it could.'
[Amherst, before 'Cattle Show/ 1851.]
. . . The breakfast is so warm, and pussy is here
a-singing, and the tea-kettle sings too, as if to see
which was loudest, and I am so afraid lest kitty
should be beaten — yet a shadow falls upon my
morning picture — where is the youth so bold, the
bravest of our fold — a seat is empty here —
spectres sit in your chair, and now and then nudge
father with their long, bony elbows. I wish you were
here, dear Austin ; the dust falls on the bureau in
your deserted room, and gay, frivolous spiders spin
away in the corners. I don't go there after dark
whenever I can help it, for the twilight seems to
pause there, and I am half afraid ; and if ever I have
to go, I hurry with all my might, and never look be-
hind me, for I know who I should see.
Before next Tuesday — oh, before the coming
stage, will I not brighten and brush it, and open
the long-closed blinds, and with a sweeping broom
will I not bring each spider down from its home
so high, and tell it it may come back again when
master has gone — and oh, I will bid it to be a
tardy spider, to tarry on the way ; and I will think
96 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [185 1
my eye is fuller than sometimes, though why I can-
not tell, when it shall rap on the window and come
to live again. I am so happy when I know how soon
you are coming that I put away my sewing and go
out in the yard to think. I have tried to delay the
frosts, I have coaxed the fading flowers, I thought
I could detain a few of the crimson leaves until you
had smiled upon them ; but their companions call
them, and they cannot stay away.
You will find the blue hills, Austin, with the
autumnal shadows silently sleeping on them, and
there will be a glory lingering round the day, so
you '11 know autumn has been here ; and the setting
sun will tell you, if you don't get home till evening.
... I thank you for such a long letter, and yet if I
might choose, the next should be a longer. I think
a letter just about three days long would make me
happier than any other kind of one, if you pjease,
— dated at Boston, but thanks be to our Father
you may conclude it here. Everything has changed
since my other letter, — the doors are shut this
morning, and all the kitchen wall is covered with
chilly flies who are trying to warm themselves, —
poor things, they do not understand that there are
no summer mornings remaining to them and me,
and they have a bewildered air which is really very
droll, didn't one feel sorry for them. You would
say 't was a gloomy morning if you were sitting here,
— the frost has been severe, and the few lingering
leaves seem anxious to be going, and wrap their
1 851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 97
faded cloaks more closely about them as if to shield
them from the chilly northeast wind. The earth
looks like some poor old lady who by dint of pains
has bloomed e'en till now, yet in a forgetful mo-
ment a few silver hairs from out her cap come
stealing, and she tucks them back so hastily and
thinks nobody sees. The cows are going to pasture,
and little boys with their hands in their pockets are
whistling to try to keep warm. Don't think that the
sky will frown so the day when you come home !
She will smile and look happy, and be full of sun-
shine then, and even should she frown upon her
child returning, there is another sky, ever serene
and fair, and there is another sunshine, though it be
darkness there ; never mind faded forests, Austin,
never mind silent fields — here is a little forest,
whose leaf is ever green ; here is a brighter garden,
where not a frost has been ; in its unfading flowers I
hear the bright bee hum ; prithee, my brother, into
7ny garden come !
Your very affectionate sister.
Dear Austin, — Something seems to whisper
' He is thinking of home this evening,' perhaps
because it rains, perhaps because it 's evening and
the orchestra of winds perform their strange, sad
music. I would n't wonder if home were thinking
VOL. I. — 7
98 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1851
of him ; and it seems so natural for one to think of
the other, perhaps it is no superstition or omen of
this evening, — no omen * at all, at all,' as Mrs
Mack would say.
Father is staying at home this evening it is so
inclement — Vinnie diverts his mind with little
snatches of music ; and mother mends a garment
to make it snugger for you — and what do you
think / do among this family circle? I am think-
ing of you with all my might, and it just occurs to
me to note a few of my thoughts for your own inspec-
tion. * Keeping a diary ' is not familiar to me as
to your sister Vinnie, but her own bright example
is quite a comfort to me, so I '11 try.
I waked up this morning thinking for all the
world I had had a letter from you — just as the
seal was breaking, father rapped at my door. I
was sadly disappointed not to go on and read ; but
when the four black horses came trotting into town,
and their load was none the heavier by a tiding
forme — I was not disappointed then, it was harder
to me than had I been disappointed. ... I found
I had made no provision for any such time as that.
. . . The weather has been unpleasant ever since
you went away — Monday morning we waked up
in the midst of a furious snow-storm — the snow
was the depth of an inch ; oh, it looked so wintry !
By-and-by the sun came out, but the wind blew
violently and it grew so cold that we gathered all
the quinces, put up the stove in the sitting-room,
1851] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 99
and bade the world good-by. Kind clouds came
over at evening ; still the sinking thermometer gave
terrible signs of what would be on the morning.
At last the morning came, laden with mild south
winds, and the winds have brought the rain, so
here we are. . . . Your very hasty letter just at
your return rejoiced us — that you were * better —
happier — heartier.' What made you think of such
beautiful words to tell us how you were, and how
cheerful you were feeling? It did us a world of
good. How little the scribe thinks of the value of
his line — how many eager eyes will search its every
meaning, how much swifter the strokes of 'the
little mystic clock, no human eye hath seen, which
ticketh on and ticketh on, from morning until e'en.'
If it were not that I could write you, you could not go
away ; therefore pen and ink are very excellent things.
We had new brown bread for tea — when it came
smoking on and we sat around the table, how I did
wish a sHce could be reserved for you ! You shall
have as many loaves as we have eaten slices if you
will but come home. This suggests Thanksgiving,
you will soon be here \ then I can't help thinking
of how, when we rejoice, so many hearts are break-
ing next Thanksgiving day. What will you say,
Austin, if I tell you that Jennie Grout and merry
Martha Kingman will spend the day above ? They
are not here — ' While we delayed to let them
forth, angels beyond stayed for them.' . . .
100 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1851
[Amherst, November 17, 185 1.]
Dear Austin, — We have just got home from
meeting — it is very windy and cold — the hills
from our kitchen window are just crusted with snow,
which with their blue mantillas makes them seem so
beautiful. You sat just here last Sunday, where I
am sitting now ; and our voices were nimbler than
our pens can be, if they try never so hardly. I
should be quite sad to-day, thinking about last Sun-
day, did n't another Sabbath smile at me so pleasantly,
promising me on its word to present you here
again when ' six days' work is done.'
Father and mother sit in state in the sitting-
room perusing such papers, only, as they are well
assured, have nothing carnal in them ; Vinnie is
eating an apple which makes me think of gold,
and accompanying it with her favorite Observer,
which, if you recollect, deprives us many a time of
her sisterly society. Pussy has n't returned from
the afternoon assembly, so you have us all just
as we are at present. We were very glad indeed
to hear from you so soon, glad that a cheerful fire
met you at the door. I do well remember how
chilly the west wind blew, and how everything
shook and rattled before I went to sleep, and I
often thought of you in the midnight car, and hoped
you were not lonely. . . . We are thinking most of
Thanksgiving than anything else just now — how
i8si] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 10 1
full will be the circle, less then by none — how the
things will smoke — how the board will groan with
the thousand savory viands — how when the day is
done, lo, the evening cometh, laden with merrie
laugh and happy conversation, and then the sleep
and the dream each of a knight or * Ladie * — how
I love to see them, a beautiful company coming
down the hill which men call the Future, with their
hearts full of joy and their hands of gladness.
Thanksgiving indeed to a family united once more
together before they go away. . . . Don't mind the
days — some of them are long ones, but who cares
for length when breadth is in store for him? Or
who minds the cross who knows he '11 have a
crown? I wish I could imbue you with all the
strength and courage which can be given men — I
wish I could assure you of the constant remem-
brance of those you leave at home — I wish — but
oh ! how vainly — that I could bring you back
again and never more to stray. You are tired now,
dear Austin, with my incessant din, but I can't help
saying any of these things.
The very warmest love from Vinnie and every one
of us. I am never ready to go.
102 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1852
Dear Austin, — ... I was so glad to get your
letter. I had been making calls all Saturday after-
noon, and came home very tired, and a little
disconsolate, so your letter was more than wel-
come. . . . Oh Austin, you don't know how we all
wished for you yesterday. We had such a splendid
sermon from Professor Park — I never heard any-
thing like it, and don't expect to again, till we stand
at the great white throne, and ' he reads from the
Book, the Lamb's Book.' The students and chapel
people all came to our church, and it was very full,
and still, so still the buzzing of a fly would have
boomed like a cannon. And when it was all over,
and that wonderful man sat down, people stared at
each other, and looked as wan and wild as if they
had seen a spirit, and wondered they had not died.
How I wish you had heard him — I thought of it
all the time. . . .
[Amherst, January, 1852.]
Monday Morning. '
Did you think I was tardy, Austin ? For two Sun-
day afternoons it has been so cold and cloudy that
I did n't feel in my very happiest mood, and so I
did not write until next Monday morning, determin-
1852] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON IO3
ing in my heart never to write to you in any but
Even this morning, Austin, I am not in merry
case, for it snows slowly and solemnly, and hardly
an outdoor thing can be seen a-stirring — now and
then a man goes by with a large cloak wrapped
around him, and shivering at that; and now and
then a stray kitten out on some urgent errand creeps
through the flakes and crawls so fast as may crawl
half frozen away. I am glad for the sake of your
body that you are not here this morning, for it is a
trying time for fingers and toes — for the heart's
sake I would verily have you here. You know there
are winter mornings when the cold without only
adds to the warm within, and the more it snows and
the harder it blows brighter the fires blaze, and
chirps more merrily the 'cricket on the hearth.'
It is hardly cheery enough for such a scene this
morning, and yet methinks it would be if you were
only here. The future full of sleigh-rides would
chase the gloom from our minds which only deepens
and darkens with every flake that falls.
Black Fanny would ' toe the mark ' if you should
be here to-morrow ; but as the prospects are, I pre-
sume Black Fanny's hoofs will not attempt to fly.
Do you have any snow in Boston? Enough for a
ride, I hope, for the sake of * Auld Lang Syne.'
Perhaps the * ladie ' of curls would not object to a
drive. . . . We miss you more and more, we do
not become accustomed to separation from you.
104 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1852
I almost wish sometimes we needn't miss you so
much, since duty claims a year of you entirely to
herself; and then again I think that it is pleasant to
miss you if you must go away, and I would not have
it otherwise, even if I could. In every pleasure and
pain you come up to our minds so wishfully — we
know you 'd enjoy our joy, and if you were with us,
Austin, we could bear little trials more cheerfully.
. . . When I know of anything funny I am just as apt
to cry, far more so than to laugh, for I know who
loves jokes best, and who is not here to enjoy them.
We don't have many jokes, though, now, it is pretty
much all sobriety ; and we do not have much poetry,
father having made up his mind that it 's pretty
much all real life. Father's real hfe and mine
sometimes come into collision but as yet escape un-
hurt. ... I am so glad you are well and in such
happy spirits — both happy and well is a great com-
fort to us when you are far away.
[February 6, 1852.]
. . . Since we have written you the grand rail-
road decision is made, and there is great rejoicing
throughout this town and the neighboring; that
is, Sunderland, Montague, and Belchertown. Every-
body is wide awake, everything is stirring, the streets
are full of people walking cheeringly, and you should
really be here to partake of the jubilee. The event
1852] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 105
was celebrated by D. Warner and cannon ; and the
silent satisfaction in the hearts of all is its crowning
Father is really sober from excessive satisfaction,
and bears his honors with a most becoming air.
Nobody believes it yet, it seems like a fairy tale, a
most miraculous event in the lives of us all. The
men begin working next week; only think of it,
Austin ; why, I verily believe we shall fall down and
worship the first ' son of Erin ' that comes, and the
first sod he turns will be preserved as an emblem of
the struggle and victory of our heroic fathers. Such
old fellows as Col. S. and his wife fold their arms
complacently and say, * Well, I declare, we have
got it after all.' Got it, you good-for-nothings ! and
so we have, in spite of sneers and pities and insults
from all around ; and we will keep it too, in spite
of earth and heaven ! How I wish you were here —
it is really too bad, Austin, at such a time as now.
I miss your big hurrahs, and the famous stir you
make upon all such occasions ; but it is a comfort
to know that you are here — that your whole soul
is here, and though apparently absent, yet present
in the highest and the truest sense. . . . Take good
care of yourself, Austin, and think much of us all,
for we do so of you.
Several subsequent letters, all piquant and
breezy, but dealing quite entirely with family
I06 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1852
matters, experiences with callers, and other
personal subjects, have been omitted.
[March 24, 1852.]
You would n't think it was spring, Austin, if you
were at home this morning, for we had a great snow-
storm yesterday, and things are all white this morn-
ing. It sounds funny enough to hear birds singing
and sleigh-bells at a time. But it won't last long,
so you need n't think 't will be winter at the time
when you come home.
I waited a day or two, thinking I might hear from
you, but you will be looking for me, and wondering
where I am, so I sha'n't wait any longer. We 're
rejoiced that you 're coming home — the first thing
we said to father when he got out of the stage was
to ask if you were coming. I was sure you would
all the while, for father said ' of course you would,'
he should * consent to no other arrangement,' and
as you say, Austin, 'what father says he means.'
How very soon it will be now — why, when I really
think of it, how near and how happy it is ! My
heart grows light so fast that I could mount a grass-
hopper and gallop around the world, and not fatigue
him any ! The sugar weather holds on, and I do
believe it will stay until you come. . . . ' Mrs S.' is
very feeble ; '■ can't bear allopathic treatment, can't
have homoeopathic, don't want hydropathic,' oh,
1852] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON I07
what a pickle she is in. Should n't think she would
deign to live, it is so decidedly vulgar ! They have
not yet concluded where to move — Mrs W. will
perhaps obtain board in the celestial city, but I 'm
sure I can't imagine what will become of the rest.
. . . Much love from us all.
[May 10, 1852.]
Monday Morning, 5 o^c.
Dear Austin, — ... Vinnie will tell you all the
news, so I will take a little place to describe a thun-
der-shower which occurred yesterday afternoon, —
the very first of the season. Father and Vinnie
were at meeting, mother asleep in her room, and
I at work by my window on a * Lyceum lecture.'
The air was really scorching, the sun red and hot,
and you know just how the birds sing before a thun-
der-storm, a sort of hurried and agitated song —
pretty soon it began to thunder, and the great
'cream-colored heads' peeped out of their win-
dows. Then came the wind and rain, and I hurried
around the house to shut all the doors and win-
dows. I wish you had seen it come, so cool and
so refreshing — and everything glistening from it as
with a golden dew — I thought of you all the time.
This morning is fair and deHghtful. You will awake
in dust, and with it the ceaseless din of the untiring
city. Wouldn't you change your dwelling for my
palace in the dew? Good-by for now. I shall see
you so soon. E.
I08 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1852
Mr Edward Dickinson was in Baltimore
when the following letter was written, in
attendance upon the Whig Convention which
sought, unsuccessfully, the nomination of
Daniel Webster for the presidency.
[Amherst, June 21, 1852.]
. . . Father has not got home, and we don't
know when to expect him. We had a letter from
him yesterday, but he did n't say when he should
come. He writes that he ' should think the whole
world was there, and some from other worlds.'
He says he meets a great many old friends and
acquaintances, and forms a great many new ones —
he writes in very fine spirits, and says he enjoys
himself very much. ... I wish you could have gone
with him, you would have enjoyed it so, but I did
not much suppose that selfish old school would let
you. . . . Last week the Senior levee came off at
the President's. I believe Professor Haven is to
give one soon — and there is to be a reception at
Professor Tyler's next Tuesday evening which I shall
attend. You see Amherst is growing lively, and by
the time you come everything will be in a buzz. . . .
We all send you our love.
1852] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 109
[Amherst, July 23, 1852.]
. . . You 'd better not come home ; I say the law
will have you, a pupil of the law o'ertaken by the
law, and brought to condign punishment, — scene for
angels and men, or rather for archangels, who being
a little higher would seem to have a 'vantage so far
as view 's concerned. 'Are you pretty comfortable,
though/ — and are you deaf and dumb and gone to
the asylum where such afflicted persons learn to hold
their tongues ?
The next time you are n't going to write me, I 'd
thank you to let me know — this kind of protracted
insult is what no man can bear. Fight with me like
a man — let me have fair shot, and you are caput
mortuiim et cap-a-pie^ and that ends the business !
If you really think I so deserve this silence, tell me
why — how — I '11 be a thorough scamp or else I
won't be any, just which you prefer.
T of S 's class went to Boston yesterday ;
it was in my heart to send an apple by him for your
private use, but father overheard some of my inten-
tions, and said they were * rather small ' — whether
this remark was intended for the apple, or for my
noble self I did not think to ask him ; I rather
think he intended to give us both a cut — however,
he may not !
You are coming home on Wednesday, as perhaps
you know, and I am very happy in prospect of your
no LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1852
coming, and hope you want to see us as much as
we do you. Mother makes nicer pies with refer-
ence to your coming, I arrange my thoughts in a
convenient shape, Vinnie grows only perter and
more pert day by day.
The horse is looking finely — better than in his
life — by which you may think him dead unless I
add befoi'e. The carriage stands in state all covered
in the chaise-house — we have one foundhng hen
into whose young mind I seek to instil the fact that
* Massa is a-comin ! '
The garden is amazing — we have beets and beans,
have had splendid potatoes for three weeks now.
Old Amos weeds and hoes and has an oversight of
all thoughtless vegetables. The apples are fine and
large in spite of my impression that father called
them * small.'
Yesterday there was a fire. At about three in the
afternoon Mr Kimberly's barn was discovered to be
on fire ; the wind was blowing a gale directly from
the west, and having had no rain, the roofs [were] as
dry as stubble. Mr Palmer's house was charred —
the little house of father's — and Mr Kimberly's also.
The engine was broken, and it seemed for a little
while as if the whole street must go ; the Kimberlys'
barn was burnt down, and the house much charred
and injured, though not at all destroyed — Mr
Palmer's barn took fire, and Deacon Leland's also,
but were extinguished with only part burned roofs.
We all feel very thankful at such a narrow escape.
1853] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON III
Father says there was never such imminent danger,
and such miraculous escape. Father and Mr Frink
took charge of the fire — or rather of the water,
since fire usually takes care of itself. The men all
worked like heroes, and after the fire was out father
gave commands to have them march to Howe's
where an entertainment was provided for them.
After the whole was over they gave ' three cheers for
Edward Dickinson,' and three more for the insur-
ance company. On the whole, it is very wonderful
that we did n't all bum up, and we ought to hold our
tongues and be very thankful. If there must be a
fire, I 'm sorry it could n't wait until you had got
home, because you seem to enjoy such things so
There is nothing of moment now which I can
find to tell you, except a case of measles in Hartford.
. . . Good-by, Sir. Fare you well. My benison
to your school.
[Amherst, Spring, 1853.]
Dear Austin, — ... How soon now you are com-
ing, and how happy we are in the thought of seeing
you ! I can't realize that you will come, it is so still
and lonely it does n't seem possible it can be other-
wise ; but we shall see, when the nails hang full of
coats again, and the chairs hang full of hats, and I
can count the slippers under the chair. Oh, Austin,
how we miss them all, and more than them, some-
112 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1853
body who used to hang them there, and get many a
hint ungentle to carry them away. Those times seem
far off now, a great way, as things we did when chil-
dren. I wish we were children now — I wish we
were always children, how to grow up I don't know.
. . . Cousin J. has made us an ^olian harp which
plays beautifully whenever there is a breeze.
Austin, you must n't care if your letters do not get
here just when you think they will — they are always
new to us, and delightful always, and the more you
send us the happier we shall be. We all send our
love to you, and think much and say much of seeing
you again — keep well till you come, and if knowing
that we all love you makes you happier, then, Austin,
you may sing the whole day long !
[Amherst, March 18, 1853.]
Dear Austin, — I presume you remember a story
that Vinnie tells of a breach of promise case where
the correspondence between the parties consisted of
a reply from the girl to one she had never received
but was daily expecting. Well, / am writing an an-
swer to the letter I have n't had, so you will see the
force of the accompanying anecdote. I have been
looking for you ever since despatching my last, but
this is a fickle world, and it 's a great source of com-
placency that 't will all be burned up by and by. I
1853] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON II3
should be pleased with a line when you 've published
your work to father, if it 's perfectly convenient !
Your letters are very funny indeed — about the
only jokes we have, now you are gone, and I hope
you will send us one as often as you can. Father
takes great delight in your remarks to him — puts
on his spectacles and reads them o'er and o'er as if
it was a blessing to have an only son. He reads all
the letters you write, as soon as he gets them, at the
post-office, no matter to whom addressed ; then he
makes me read them aloud at the supper table again,
and when he gets home in the evening, he cracks a
few walnuts, puts his spectacles on, and with your
last in his hand, sits down to enjoy the evening. . . .
I believe at this moment, Austin, that there 's nobody
living for whom father has such respect as for you.
But my paper is getting low, and I must hasten to
tell you that we are very happy to hear good news
from you, that we hope you '11 have pleasant times
and learn a great deal while you 're gone, and come
back to us greater and happier for the life lived at
Cambridge. We miss you more and more. I wish
that we could see you, but letters come the next —
write them often, and tell us everything.
VOL. I. — 8
114 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1853
[June 14, 1853.]
. . . We have been free from company by the
'Amherst and Belchertown Railroad' since J. went
home, though we Hve in constant fear of some other
visitation. * Oh, would some power the giftie gie '
folks to see themselves as we see them. — Biwns.
I have read the poems, Austin, and am going to
read them again. They please me very much, but
I must read them again before I know just what
I think of 'Alexander Smith.' They are not very
coherent, but there 's a good deal of exquisite frenzy,
and some wonderful figures as ever I met in my life.
We will talk about it again. The grove looks nicely,
Austin, and we think must certainly grow. We love
to go there — it is a charming place. Everything is
singing now, and everything is beautiful that can be
in its life. . . . The time for the New London trip
has not been fixed upon. I sincerely wish it may
wait until you get home from Cambridge if you
would like to go.
The cars continue thriving — a good many passen-
gers seem to arrive from somewhere, though nobody
knows from where. Father expects his new buggy
to arrive by the cars every day now, and that will
help a little. I expect all our grandfathers and all
their country cousins will come here to spend Com-
mencement, and don't doubt the stock will rise
several per cent that week. If we children could
obtain board for the week in some 'vast wilderness,'
1853] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON II5
I think we should have good times. Our house is
crowded daily with the members of this world, the
high and the low, the bond and the free, the * poor
in this world's goods/ and the 'almighty dollar;'
and what in the world they are after continues to be
unknown. But I hope they will pass away as insects
or vegetation, and let us reap together in golden
harvest time. You and I and our sister Vinnie must
have a pleasant time to be unmolested together when
your school-days end. You must come home from
school, not stopping to play by the way. . . . We all
send our love to you, and miss you very much, and
think of seeing you again very much. Write me
again soon. I have said a good deal to-day.
The new railroad was opened for the first
regular trip from Palmer to Amherst, May 9,
1853. Mr Edward Dickinson wrote on that
day, * We have no railroad jubilee till we see
whether all moves right, then we shall glorify
becomingly,' Everything was apparently sat-
isfactory, for the celebration occurred early in
June, when more than three hundred New
London people visited Amherst. In the fol-
lowing letter from Emily are indications of her
growing distaste to mingle in a social meleey
despite genuine interest in itself and its cause.
Il6 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1853
[June 20, 1853.]
My dear Austin, — ... The New London day-
passed off grandly, so all the people said. It was
pretty hot and dusty, but nobody cared for that.
Father was, as usual, chief marshal of the day, and
went marching around with New London at his heels
like some old Roman general upon a triumph day.
Mrs H. got a capital dinner, and was very much
praised. Carriages flew like sparks, hither and
thither and yon, and they all said 'twas fine. I
* spose ' it was. I sat in Professor Tyler's woods and
saw the train move off, and then came home again
for fear somebody would see me, or ask me how I
did. Dr Holland was here, and called to see us —
was very pleasant indeed, inquired for you, and
asked mother if Vinnie and I might come and see
them in Springfield. . . . We all send you our love.
[Postmarked, July 2, 1853.]
Dear Austin, — ... Some of the letters you 've
sent us we have received, and thank you for affec-
tionately. Some we have not received, but thank
you for the memory, of which the emblem perished.
Where all those letters go, yours and ours, somebody
surely knows, but we do not. There 's a new post-
master to-day, but we don't know who 's to blame.
1853] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON II7
You never wrote me a letter, Austin, which I hked
half so well as the one father brought me. We think
of your coming home with a great deal of happiness,
and are glad you want to come.
Father said he never saw you looking in better
health or seeming in finer spirits. He didn't say
a word about the Hippodrome or the Museum, and
he came home so stern that none of us dared to ask
him, and besides grandmother was here, and you
certainly don't think I 'd allude to a Hippodrome in
the presence of that lady ! I 'd as soon think of
popping fire-crackers in the presence of Peter the
Great. But you '11 tell us when you get home —
how soon — how soon ! . . . I admire the ' Poems *
very much. We all send our love to you — shall
write you again Sunday.
... It is cold here to-day, Austin, and the west
wind blows — the windows are shut at home, and
the fire burns in the kitchen. How we should love
to see you — how pleasant it would be to walk to
the grove together. We will walk there when you
get home. We all went down this morning, and the
trees look beautifully — every one is growing, and
when the west wind blows, the pines lift their light
leaves and make sweet music. Pussy goes down
there too, and seems to enjoy much in her own
Il8 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1853
Mr Dvvight has not answered yet ; he probably will
this week. I do think he will come, Austin, and
shall be so glad if he will. . . . We all wish you here
always, but I hope 't will seem only dearer for missing
it so long. Father says you will come in three weeks
— that won't be long now — keep well and happy,
Austin, and remember us all you can, and much love
from home and
. . . G. H. has just retired from an evening's
visit here, and I gather my spent energies to write
a word to you.
* Blessed are they that are persecuted for right-
eousness' sake, for they shall have their reward ! *
Dear Austin, I don't feel funny, and I hope you
won't laugh at anything I say. I am thinking of
you and Vinnie — what nice times you are having,
sitting and talking together, while I am lonely here,
and I wanted to sit and think of you, and fancy
what you were saying, all the evening long, but —
ordained otherwise. I hope you will have grand
times, and don't forget the unit without you, at
I have had some things from you to which I per-
ceive no meaning. They either were very vast, or
they did n't mean anything, I don't know certainly
which. What did you mean by a note you sent me
day before yesterday? Father asked me what you
1853] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON II9
wrote, and I gave it to him to read. He looked very
much confused, and finally put on his spectacles,
which did n't seem to help him much — I don't
think a telescope would have assisted him. I hope
you will write to me — I love to hear from you, and
now Vinnie is gone I shall feel very lonely. . . .
Love for them all if there are those to love and
think of me, and more and most for you, from
Well, Austin, dear Austin, you have got back
again, codfish and pork and all — all but the slip-
pers, so nicely wrapped to take, yet found when
you were gone under the kitchen chair. I hope you
won't want them. Perhaps you have some more
there — I will send them by opportunity, should
there be such a thing. Vinnie proposed franking
them, but I fear they are rather large ! What should
you think of it? It isn't every day that we have a
chance to sponge Congress, . . . but Caesar is such
^an honorable man ' that we may all go to the poor-
house for all the American Congress will lift a finger
to help us. . . .
The usual rush of callers, and this beleaguered
family as yet in want of time. I do hope im-
mortality will last a little while, but if the A s
should happen to get there first, we shall be driven
thei-e. . . .
120 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1854
[March 17, 1854.]
. . . Since you went back to Cambridge the
weather has been wonderful, — the thermometer
every noon between 60 and 70 above zero, and
the air full of birds.
To-day has not seemed like a day. It has been
most unearthly, — so mild, so bright, so still, the
windows open, and fires uncomfortable.
Since supper it lightens frequently. In the south
you can see the lightning — in the north the north-
ern lights. Now a furious wind blows just from the
north and west, and winter comes back again. . . .
There is to be a party at Professor Haven's to-
morrow night, for married people merely. Celibacy
excludes me and my sister. Father and mother are
invited. Mother will go. . . . Mother and Vinnie
send love. They are both getting ready for Wash-
ington. Take care of yourself.
Already Emily seems to have exhibited dis-
inclination for journeys, as, in a letter to his son
in Cambridge, dated at Washington, March
13, 1854, Mr Edward Dickinson said, 'I have
written home to have Lavinia come with your
mother and you, and Emily, too, if she will,
but that I will not insist upon her coming.'
Emily, however, did go to Washington with
her family, later in the spring, as a subsequent
letter to Mrs Holland will show.
1854] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 12I
[Amherst, March 27, 1854]
Well, Austin, — it's Sunday evening. Vinnie is
sick with the ague — mother taking a tour of the
second story as she is wont, Sabbath evening — the
wind is blowing high, the weather very cold, and I
am rather cast down in view of all these circum-
stances. ... I went to meeting alone all day. I
assure you I felt very solemn. I went to meeting
five minutes before the bell rang, morning and after-
noon, so not to have to go in after all the people
had got there. 1 wish you had heard Mr Dwight's
sermons to-day. He has preached wonderfully, and
I thought all the afternoon how I wished you were
there. ... I will tell you something funny. You
know Vinnie sent father [at Washington] a box of
maple sugar — she got the box at the store, and it
said on the outside of it, ' i doz. genuine Quaker
Soap.' We did n't hear from the box, and so many
days passed we began to feel anxious lest it had never
reached him ; and mother, writing soon, alluded in
her letter to the 'sugar sent by the girls,' and the
funniest letter from father came in answer to hers.
It seems the box went straightway, but father not
knowing the hand, merely took off the papers in
which the box was wrapped, and the label 'Quaker
Soap' so far imposed upon him that he put the box
in a drawer with his shaving materials, and supposed
himself well stocked with an excellent Quaker Soap.
122 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1854
. . . We all send our love to you, and want you should
write us often. Good-night, from
. . . The Germanians gave a concert here the
evening of exhibition day. Vinnie and I went with
J. I never heard sounds before. They seemed like
brazen robins, all wearing broadcloth wings, and I
think they were, for they all flew away as soon as
the concert was over.
[Late Spring, 1854.]
Dear Austin, — I rather thought from your letter
to me that my essays, together with the lectures at
Cambridge, were too much for you, so I thought
I would let you have a little vacation ; but you
must have got rested now, so I shall renew the
series. Father was very severe to me ; he thought
I 'd been trifling with you, so he gave me quite a
trimming about ' Uncle Tom ' and ' Charles Dickens '
and these ' modern Hterati ' who, he says, are noth-
ing, compared to past generations who flourished
when he was a boy. Then he said there were ' some-
body's rev-e-ries,' he did n't know whose they were,
that he thought were very ridiculous — so I 'm quite
in disgrace at present, but I think of that ' pinnacle '
on which you always mount when anybody insults
you, and that 's quite a comfort to me. . . .
1854] TO MR WILLIAM AUSTIN DICKINSON 12 3
After a page or two of information about
friends in the village, the letter continues :
This is all the news I can think of, but there is
one old story, Austin, which you may like to hear —
it is that we think about you the whole of the live-
long day, and talk of you when we 're together.
And you can recollect when you are busy studying
that those of us at home not so hard at work as you
are, get much time to be with you. We all send
our love to you.
[Amherst, May, 1854.]
Dear Austin, — A week ago we were all here —
to-day we are not all here — yet the bee hums just
as merrily, and all the busy things work on as if the
same. They do not miss you, child, but there is a
humming-bee whose song is not so merry, and there
are busy ones who pause to drop a tear. Let us
thank God, to-day, Austin, that we can love our
friends, our brothers and our sisters, and weep when
they are gone, and smile at their return. It is
indeed a joy which we are blest to know.
To-day is very beautiful — just as bright, just as
blue, just as green and as white and as crimson as
the cherry-trees full in bloom, and the half-opening
peach-blossoms, and the grass just waving, and sky
and hill and cloud can make it, if they try. How I
124 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1854
wish you were here, Austin ; you thought last Satur-
day beautiful, yet to this golden day 't was but one
single gem to whole handfuls of jewels. You will
ride to-day, I hope, or take a long walk somewhere,
and recollect us all, — Vinnie and me and father
and mother and home. Yes, Austin, every one of
us, for we all think of you, and bring you to recol-
lection many times each day — not bring you to
recollection, for we never put you away, but keep
recollecting on. . . .
You must think of us to-night while Mr Dwight
takes tea here, and we will think of you far away
down in Cambridge.
Don't mind the can, Austin, if it is rather dry,
don't mind the daily road though it is rather dusty,
but remember the brooks and the hills, and re-
member while you 're but one, we are but four at
To Mrs Gordon L. Ford, Mr Bowdoin, Mrs
Anthon, and Miss Lavinia Dickinson
WITH a number of early letters to herself,
Mrs Ford of Brooklyn sent me also a
short sketch of her remembrance of Emily
Dickinson's girlhood, which seems to show
her in a somewhat different aspect from any-
thing which other friends have given.
Mrs Ford was a daughter of the late Pro-
fessor Fowler of Amherst College, and her
recollections, making a pleasant picture of life
in Amherst nearly fifty years ago, have all the
charm of early friendship and intercourse in
the days when plain living and high thinking
were not an exceptional combination.
In speaking of several letters which she
could not find, Mrs Ford wrote, ' The other
things which I wish I could put my hand on
were funny — sparkling with fun, and that
is a new phase to the public; but she cer-
tainly began as a humorist' Although sent
to me for publication in this volume of Letters^
126 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON
Mrs Ford had hoped to revise and perhaps
shorten the sketch in the proof; and her sud-
den death, within a few days after writing it,
lends a saddened interest to these memories of
a vanished friendship.
* My remembrances of my friend Emily
Dickinson are many and vivid, and delightful
to me personally, yet they are all of trifles in
themselves, and only interesting to the general
public as they cast light on the growth and
changes in her soul.
* Our parents were friends, and we knew each
other from childhood, but she was several years
younger, and how and when we drew together
I cannot recall, but I think the friendship was
based on certain sympathies and mutual ad-
mirations of beauty in nature and ideas. She
loved the great aspects of nature, and yet was
full of interest and affection for its smaller
details. We often walked together over the
lovely hills of Amherst, and I remember
especially two excursions to Mount Norwot-
tock, five miles away, where we found the
climbing fern, and came home laden with
pink and white trilliums, and later, yellow
lady's-slippers. She knew the wood-lore of
the region round about, and could name the
haunts and the habits of every wild or garden
MRS GORDON L. FORD 12/
growth within her reach. Her eyes were wide
open to nature's sights, and her ears to nature's
* My chief recollections of her are connected
with these woodland walks, or out-door excur-
sions with a merry party, perhaps to Sunder-
land for the "sugaring off" of the maple sap,
or to some wild brook in the deeper forest,
w^here the successful fishermen would after-
ward cook the chowder. She was a free
talker about what interested her, yet I cannot
remember one personal opinion expressed of
her mates, her home, or her habits.
' Later we met to discuss books. The
Atlantic Monthly was a youngster then, and
our joy over a new poem by Lowell, Long-
fellow, and Whittier, our puzzles over Emer-
son's " If the red slayer think he slays,"
our laughter at Oliver Wendell Holmes, were
full and satisfying. Lowell was especially
dear to us, and once I saw a passionate fit of
crying brought on, when a tutor of the
College, who died while contesting the sena-
torship for Louisiana,^ told us from his eight
years of seniority, that " Byron had a much
1 The Hon. Henry M. Spofford, Justice of the Supreme
Court of Louisiana, a graduate of Amherst College in the
Class of 1840, and brother of Mr Ainsworth R. Spofford, the
Librarian of Congress.
128 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON
better style," and advised us " to leave Lowell,
Motherwell and Emerson alone." Like other
young creatures, we were ardent partisans.
* There was a fine circle of young people
in Amherst, and we influenced each other
strongly. We were in the adoring mood, and
I am glad to say that many of those idols of
our girlhood have proved themselves golden.
The eight girls who composed this group had
talent enough for twice their number, and in
their respective spheres of mothers, authors
or women, have been noteworthy and admi-
rable. Three of them have passed from earth,
but the others live in activity and usefulness.
' This group started a little paper in the
Academy, now the village High School, which
was kept up for two years. Emily Dickinson
was one of the wits of the school, and, a
humorist of the " comic column." Fanny
Montague often made the head title of the
paper — Forest Leaves — in leaves copied
from nature, and fantasies of her own pen-
work. She is now a wise member of art
circles in Baltimore, a manager of the Museum
of Art, and the appointed and intelligent critic
of the Japanese exhibit at the Exposition in
Chicago. Helen Fiske (the " H. H." of later
days) did no special work on the paper for
MRS GORDON L, FORD 1 29
* This paper was all in script, and was passed
around the school, where the contributions
were easily recognized from the handwriting,
which in Emily's case was very beautiful —
small, clear, and finished. Later, though her
writing retained its elegance, it became diffi-
cult to read. I wish very much I could find
a copy of Forest Leaves, but we recklessly
gave the numbers away, and the last one I
ever saw turned up at the Maplewood Insti-
tute in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where they
started a similar paper. Emily's contributions
were irresistible, but I cannot recall them.
One bit was stolen by a roguish editor for the
College paper, where her touch was instantly
recognized ; and there were two paragraphs in
The Springfield Republican.
* We had a Shakespeare Club — a rare thing
in those days, — and one of the tutors pro-
posed to take all the copies of all the members
and mark out the questionable passages. This
plan was negatived at the first meeting, as far
as " the girls " spoke, who said they did not
want the strange things emphasized, nor their
books spoiled with marks. Finally we told
the men to do as they liked — *' we shall read
everything." I remember the lofty air with
which Emily took her departure, saying,
" There 's nothing wicked in Shakespeare, and
130 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON
if there is I don't want to know it." The men
read for perhaps three meetings from their
expurgated editions, and then gave up their
plan, and the whole text was read out boldly.
* There were many little dances, with cake
and lemonade at the end, and one year there
was a valentine party, where the lines of vari-
ous authors were arranged to make apparent
sense, but absolute nonsense, the play being
to guess the names and places of the misap-
' Emily was part and parcel of all these
gatherings, and there were no signs, in her
life and character, of the future recluse. As a
prophetic hint, she once asked me if it did not
make me shiver to hear a great many people
talk — they took " all the clothes off their souls "
— and we discussed this matter. She mingled
freely in all the companies and excursions of
the moment, and the evening frolics.
' Several of this group had beauty, all had
intelligence and character, and others had
charm. Emily was not beautiful, yet she had
great beauties. Her eyes were lovely auburn,
soft and warm, her hair lay in rings of the same
color all over her head, and her skin and teeth
were fine. At this time she had a demure
manner which brightened easily into fun
where she felt at home, but among strangers
MRS GORDON L. FORD 1 3 I
she was rather shy, silent, and even depreca-
ting. She was exquisitely neat and careful in
her dress, and always had flowers about her,
another pleasant habit of modernity.
' I have so many times seen her in the
morning at work in her garden where every-
thing throve under her hand, and wandering
there at eventide, that she is perpetually asso-
ciated in my mind with flowers — a flower
herself, — especially as for years it was her
habit to send me the first buds of the arbutus
which we had often hung over together in the
woods, joying in its fresh fragrance as the very
breath of coming spring.
* My busy married life separated me from
these friends of my youth, and intercourse
with them has not been frequent ; but I rejoice
that my early years were passed in scenes of
beautiful nature, and with these mates of
simple life, high cultivation and noble ideals.
In Emily as in others, there was a rare com-
bination of fervor and simplicity, with good
practical living, great conscience and direct-
ness of purpose. She loved with all her
might, there was never a touch of the world-
ling about her, and we all knew and trusted
' Dr Holland once said to me, " Her poems
are too ethereal for publication." I repHed,
132 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON
"They are beautiful — so concentrated— but
they remind me of air-plants that have no
roots in earth." " That is true," he said, ** a
perfect description ; " and I think these lyrical
ejaculations, these breathed-out projectiles,
sharp as lances, would at that time have fallen
into idle ears. But gathered in a volume
where many could be read at once as her
philosophy of life, they explain each other,
and so become intelligible and delightful to
* The first poem I ever read was the robin
chorister^ (pubhshed in the first volume)
which she gave my husband years ago. I
think in spite of her seclusion, she was longing
for poetic sympathy, and that some of her
later habits of life originated in this suppressed
and ungratified desire.
* I only wish the interest and delight her
poems have aroused could have come early
enough in her career to have kept her social
and communicative, and at one with her
friends. Still, these late tributes to her mem-
ory are most welcome to the circle that loved
her, even though they are but laurels to lay on
' E. E. F. F.'
1 • Some keep the Sabbath going to church,' etc.
1848] TO MRS GORDON L. FORD 133
The first letter was written in 1848; the
others at intervals until 1853. Though placed
in order, they were not dated by Mrs Ford.
Dear Emily, — I said when the barber came I
would save you a little lock, and fulfilling my prom-
ise, I send you one to-day. I shall never give you
anything again that will be half so full of sunshine
as this wee lock of hair, but I wish no hue more
sombre might ever fall to you.
All your gifts should be rainbows if I owned half
the shine, and but a bit of sea to furnish raindrops
for one. Dear Emily, this is all — it will serve to
make you remember me when locks are crisp and
gray, and the quiet cap, and the spectacles, and
* John Anderson my Jo ' are all that is left of you.
I must have one of yours. Please spare me a little
lock sometime when you have your scissors and
there is one to spare.
Your very affectionate
The buds are small, dear Emily, but will you
please accept one for your cousin and yourself? I
quite forgot the rosebugs when I spoke of the buds,
last evening, and I found a family of them taking an
early breakfast on my most precious bud, with a
smart little worm for landlady, so the sweetest are
gone, but accept my love with the smallest, and I 'm
134 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1849
Dear Emily, — I come and see you a great many
times every day, though I don't bring my body with
me, so perhaps you don't know I 'm there. But I
love to come just as dearly, for nobody sees me then,
and I sit and chat away, and look up in your face,
and no matter who calls if '■ my Lord the King,' he
does n't interrupt me. Let me say, dear Emily, both
mean to come at a time, so you shall be very sure I
am sitting by your side, and not have to trust the
fancy. . . .
Dear Emily, — I fear you will be lonely this dark
and stormy day, and I send this little messenger to
say you must not be.
The day is long to me. I have wanted to come
and see you. I have tried earnestly to come, but
always have been detained by some ungenerous care,
and now this falling snow sternly and silently lifts up
its hand between.
How glad I am affection can always leave and go.
How glad that the drifts of snow pause at the outer
door and go no farther, and it is as warm within as
if no winter came. . . . Let us think of the pleas-
ant summer whose gardens are far away, and whose
robins are singing always. If it were not for blos-
soms . . . and for that brighter sunshine above.
1 849] TO MRS GORDON L. FORD 1 35
beyond, away, these days were dark indeed ; but I
try to keep recollecting that we are away from home,
and have many brothers and sisters who are expect-
ing us. Dear Emilie, don't weep, for you will both
be so happy where ^ sorrow cannot come.'
Vinnie left her Testament on a Httle stand in our
room, and it made me think of her, so I thought I
would open it, and the first words I read were in
those sweetest verses, * Blessed are the poor —
Blessed are they that mourn — Blessed are they that
weep, for they shall be comforted.' Dear Emily, I
thought of you, and I hastened away to send this
message to you.
Thiers day Morn.
Dear Emily, — I can't come in this morning, be-
cause I am so cold, but you will know I am here
ringing the big front door-bell, and leaving a note
Oh, I want to come in, I have a great mind now
to follow little Jane into your warm sitting-room ;
are you there, dear Emily?
No, I resist temptation and run away from the
door just as fast as my feet will carry me, lest if I
once come in I shall grow so happy that I shall stay
there always and never go home at all. You will
have read this note by the time I reach the office,
and you can't think how fast I run.
136 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1849
P. S. I have just shot past the corner, and now
all the wayside houses, and the little gate flies open
to see me coming home.
It has been a long week, dear Emily, for I have
not seen your face, but I have contrived to think of
you very much instead, which has half reconciled
me to not seeing you for so long. I was coming
several times, but the snow would start the first, and
then the paths were damp, and then a friend would
drop in to chat, and the short afternoon was gone
before I was aware.
Did Mr D give you a message from me ? He
promised to be faithful, but I don't suppose divines
think earthly loves of much consequence. My
flowers come in my stead to-day, dear Emily. I
hope you will love to see them, and whatever word
of love or welcome kindly you would extend to me,
* do even so to them.' They are small, but so full of
meaning if they only mean the half of what I bid
. . . When I am as old as you, and have had so
many friends, perhaps they won't seem so precious,
and then I sha'n't write any more little billets-doux
like these, but you will forgive me now, because I
can't find many so dear to me as you. Then I know
I can't have you always; some day a 'brave dra-
1850] TO MR BOWDOIN 1 37
goon ' will be stealing you away, and I will have
farther to go to discover you at all, so I shall recol-
lect all these sweet opportunities, and feel so sorry if
I did n't improve them. . . .
About this time (December, 1849), the fol-
loviring little note was sent to Mr Bowdoin, a
law student in Mr Dickinson's office, * on re-
turning Jane Eyre. The leaves mentioned
were box leaves.'
Mr Bowdoin, — If all these leaves were altars,
and on every one a prayer that Currer Bell might be
saved, and you were God — would you answer it ?
Mr Bowdoin, who was considered by the
young girls at that time *a confirmed bache-
lor,' also received the accompanying valentine
Valentine Week .
Awake, ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine, \
Unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine. J
Oh the earth was made for lovers, for damsel, and
For sighing, and gentle whispering, and unity made
All things do go a courting, in earth or sea, or air,
God hath made nothing single but thee in His world
so fair !
138 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1850
The bride and then the bridegroom, the two, and
then the o?ie,
Adam, and Eve, his consort, the moon and then the
The hfe doth prove the precept, who obey shall
Who will not serve the sovereign, be hanged on fatal
The high do seek the lowly, the great do seek the
None cannot find who seeketh, on this terrestrial
The bee doth court the flower, the flower his suit
And they make a merry wedding, whose guests are
hundred leaves ;
The wind doth woo the branches, the branches they
And the father fond demandeth the maiden for his
The storm doth walk the seashore humming a mourn-
The wave with eye so pensive, looketh to see the
Their spirits meet together, they make them solemn
No more he singeth mournful, her sadness she doth
The worm doth woo the mortal, death claims a living
1850] TO MR BOWDOIN 1 39
Night unto day is married, morn unto eventide ;
Earth is a merry damsel, and heaven a knight so
And Earth is quite coquettish, and beseemeth in vain
Now to the appUcation, to the reading of the roll,
To bringing thee to justice, and marshalling thy soul :
Thou art a human solo, a being cold, and lone,
Wilt have no kind companion, thou reapest what
thou hast sown.
Hast never silent hours, and minutes all too long,
And a deal of sad reflection, and wailing instead of
There 's Sarah, and Eliza, and Emeline so fair,
And Harriet and Sabra, and she with curling hair.
Thine eyes are sadly blinded, but yet thou mayest
Six true and comely maidens sitting upon the tree ;
Approach that tree with caution, then up it boldly
And seize the one thou lovest, nor care for space, or
Then bear her to the greenwood, and build for her
And give her what she asketh, jewel, or bird, or
And bring the fife, and trumpet, and beat upon the
And bid the world Goodmorrow, and go to glory
I40 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1852
Valentines seemed ever near the thoughts
of the young people of this generation, and
another clever one, written by Emily in 1852,
somehow found its way into The Republican,
probably through some friend. It was origi-
nally sent to Mr William Rowland.
Sic transit gloria mundif
How doth the busy bee —
Dtim vivimus vivamus^
I stay mine enemy.
Oh, veni, vidi^ viciy
Oh, caputs cap-a-pie,
And oh, memento mori
When I am far from thee.
Hurrah for Peter Parley,
Hurrah for Daniel Boone,
Three cheers, sir, for the gentlemen
Who first observed the moon.
Peter put up the sunshine,
Pattie arrange the stars.
Tell Luna tea is waiting,
And call your brother Mars.
Put down the apple, Adam,
And come away with me ;
So shall thou have a pippin
From off my father's tree.
1852] TO MR WILLIAM ROWLAND 141
I climb the hill of science
I ' view the landscape o'er/
Such transcendental prospect
I ne'er beheld before.
Unto the Legislature
My country bids me go.
I '11 take my india-rubbers,
In case the wind should blow.
During my education,
It was announced to me
That gravitation, stumbling,
Fell from an apple-tree.
The earth upon its axis
Was once supposed to turn.
By way of a gymnastic
In honor to the sun.
It was the brave Columbus,
A-sailing on the tide.
Who notified the nations
Of where I would reside.
Mortality is fatal.
Gentility is fine.
Insolvency sublime. /"
Our fathers being weary
Lay down on Bunker Hill,
And though full many a morning.
Yet they are sleeping still.
142 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1852
The trumpet, sir, shall wake them,
In dream I see them rise,
Each with a solemn musket
A-marching to the skies.
A coward will remain, sir.
Until the fight is done.
But an immortal hero
Will take his hat and run.
Good-by, sir, I am going —
My country calleth me.
Allow me, sir, at parting
To wipe my weeping e'e.
In token of our friendship
Accept this Bonnie Doon,
And when the hand that plucked it
Has passed beyond the moon.
The memory of my ashes
Will consolation be.
Then farewell, Tuscarora,
And farewell, sir, to thee.
To Mrs Ford.
Sunday Afternoon .
I have just come home from meeting, where I
have been all day, and it makes me so happy to
think of writing you that I forget the sermon and
1852] TO MRS GORDON L. FORD 1 43
minister and all, and think of none but you. . . .
I miss you always, dear Emily, and I think now and
then that I can't stay without you, and half make
up my mind to make a Httle bundle of all my earthly
things, bid my blossoms and home good-by, and set
out on foot to find you. But we have so much
matter of fact here that I don't dare to go, so I keep
on sighing, and wishing you were here.
I know you would be happier amid this darling
spring than in ever so kind a city, and you would get
well much faster drinking our morning dew — and
the world here is so beautiful, and things so sweet
and fair, that your heart would be soothed and
I would tell you about the spring if I thought it
might persuade you even now to return, but every
bud and bird would only afflict you and make you
sad where you are, so not one word of the robins,
and not one word of the bloom, lest it make the
city darker, and your own home more dear.
But nothing forgets you, Emily, not a blossom, not
a bee ; for in the merriest flower there is a pensive
air, and in the bonniest bee a sorrow — they know
that you are gone, they know how well you loved
them, and in their little faces is sadness, and in their
mild eyes, tears. But another spring, dear friend,
you must and shall be here, and nobody can take
you away, for I will hide you and keep you — and
who would think of taking you if I hold you tight in
my arms ?
144 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1852
Your home looks very silent — I try to think of
things funny, and turn the other way when I am
passing near, for sure I am that looking would make
my heart too heavy, and make my eyes so dim.
How I do long once more to hear the household
voices, and see you there at twilight sitting in the
door — and I shall when the leaves fall, sha'n't I,
and the crickets begin to sing?
You must not think sad thoughts, dear Emily.
I fear you are doing so, from your sweet note to nie,
and it almost breaks my heart to have you so far
away, where I cannot comfort you.
All will be well, I know, and I know all will be
happy, and I so wish I was near to convince my
dear friend so. I want very much to hear how Mr
Ford is now. I hope you will tell me, for it's a
good many weeks since I have known anything of
him. You and he may come this way any summer ;
and how I hope he may — and I shall pray for him,
and for you, and for your home on earth, which will
be next the one in heaven.
Your very affectionate,
I thank you for writing me, one precious little
'forget-me-not' to bloom along my way. But one
little one is lonely — pray send it a blue-eyed mate,
that it be not alone. Here is love from mother and
father and Vinnie and me. . . .
1853] TO MRS GORDON L. FORD 1 45
Dear Emily, — Are you there, and shall you always
stay there, and is it not dear Emily any more, but
Mrs Ford of Connecticut, and must we stay alone,
and will you not come back with the birds and the
butterflies, when the days grow long and warm ?
Dear Emily, we are lonely here. I know Col.
S is left, and Mr and Mrs K , but pussy has
run away, and you do not come back again, and the
world has grown so long ! I knew you would go
away, for I know the roses are gathered, but I
guessed not yet, not till by expectation we had
become resigned. Dear Emily, when it came, and
hidden by your veil you stood before us all and
made those promises, and when we kissed you, all,
and went back to our homes, it seemed to me trans-
lation, not any earthly thing, and if a little after you 'd
ridden on the wind, it would not have surprised me.
And now five days have gone, Emily, and long
and silent, and I begin to know that you will not
come back again. There 's a verse in the Bible,
Emily, I don't know where it is, nor just how it goes
can I remember, but it's a little like this — ^I can go
to her, but she cannot come back to me.' I guess
that is n't right, but my eyes are full of tears, and
I 'm sure I do not care if I make mistakes or not.
Is it happy there, dear Emily, and is the fireside
VOL I. — 10
146 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1859
warm, and have you a little cricket to chirp upon
How much we think of you — how dearly love you
— how often hope for you that it may all be happy.
Sunday evening your father came in — he stayed a
little while. I thought he looked solitary. I thought
he had grown old. How lonely he must be — I 'm
sorry for him.
Mother and Vinnie send their love, and hope you
are so happy. Austin has gone away. Father comes
home to-morrow. I know father will miss you. He
loved to meet you here.
* So fades a summer cloud away,
So smiles the gale when storms are o'er.
So gently shuts the eye of day.
So dies a wave along the shore.'
Kiss me, dear Emily, and remember me if you will,
with much respect, to your husband. Will you write
To Mrs Anthon.
. . . Sweet at my door this March night another
candidate. Go home ! We don't like Katies here !
Stay ! My heart votes for you, and what am I,
indeed, to dispute her ballot !
What are your qualifications ? Dare you dwell in
the East where we dwell? Are you afraid of the
1859] TO MRS ANT HON 1 47
sun? When you hear the new violet sucking her
way among the sods, shall you be resolute ? All we
are strangers, dear, the world is not acquainted with
us, because we are not acquainted with her; and
pilgrims. Do you hesitate? And soldiers, oft —
some of us victors, but those I do not see to-night,
owing to the smoke. We are hungry, and thirsty,
sometimes, we are barefoot and cold — will you still
Theriy bright I record you — Kate, gathered in
March ! It is a small bouquet, dear, but what it
lacks in size it gains in fadelessness. Many can
boast a hollyhock, but few can bear a rose ! And
should new flower smile at limited associates, pray
her remember were there many, they were not
worn upon the breast, but tilled in the pasture. So
I rise wearing her — so I sleep holding, — sleep at
last with her fast in my hand, and wake bearing my
To the Same,
There are two ripenings, one of sight.
Whose forces spheric wind,
Until the velvet product
Drops spicy to the ground.
A homelier maturing,
A process in the burr
That teeth of frosts alone disclose
On far October air.
148 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [i860
To the Same.
The prettiest of pleas, dear, but with a lynx like
me quite unavailable. Finding is slow, facilities for
losing so frequent, in a world like this, I hold with
extreme caution. A prudence so astute may seem
unnecessary, but plenty moves those most, dear, who
have been in want, and Saviour tells us, Kate, the
poor are always with us. Were you ever poor? I
have been a beggar, and rich to-night, as by God's
leave I believe I am, the ' lazzaroni's ' faces haunt,
pursue me still !
You do not yet 'dishmn,' Kate. Distinctly sweet
your face stands in its phantom niche — I touch
your hand — my cheek your cheek — I stroke your
vanished hair. Why did you enter, sister, since you
must depart? Had not its heart been torn enough
but you must send your shred?
Oh, our condor Kate ! Come from your crags
again ! Oh, dew upon the bloom fall yet again a
summer's night ! Of such have been the frauds
which have vanquished faces, sown plant of flesh the
church-yard plats, and occasioned angels.
There is a subject, dear, on which we never touch.
Ignorance of its pageantries does not deter me. I
too went out to meet the dust early in the morning.
I too in daisy mounds possess hid treasure, therefore
I guard you more. You did not tell me you had
i86i] TO MRS ANTHON 1 49
once been a ^millionaire.' Did my sister think that
opulence could be mistaken? Some trinket will
remain, some babbhng plate or jewel.
I write you from the summer. The murmuring
leaves fill up the chinks through which the winter red
shone when Kate was here, and F was here, and
frogs sincerer than our own splash in their Maker's
pools. It 's but a little past, dear, and yet how far
from here it seems, fled with the snow ! So through
the snow go many loving feet parted by * Alps.' How
brief, from vineyards and the sun !
Parents and Vinnie request love to be given girl.
To the Same.
Katie, — Last year at this time I did not miss
you, but positions shifted, until I hold your black
in strong hallowed remembrance, and trust my colors
are to you tints slightly beloved.
You cease, indeed, to talk, which is a custom
prevalent among things parted and torn, but shall I
class this, dear, among elect exceptions, and bear
you just as usual unto the kind Lord ?
We dignify our faith when we can cross the ocean
with it, though most prefer ships.
How do you do this year ? . . . How many years,
I wonder, will sow the moss upon them, before we
bind again, a little altered, it may be, elder a little
150 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1861
it will be, and yet the same, as suns which shine be-
tween our lives and loss, and violets — not last
year's, but having the mother's eyes.
Do you find plenty of food at home ? Famine is
It is too late for frogs — or what pleases me
better, dear, not quite early enough ! The pools
were full of you for a brief period, but that brief
period blew away, leaving me with many stems, and
but a few foliage ! Gentlemen here have a way of
plucking the tops of the trees, and putting the fields
in their cellars annually, which in point of taste is
execrable, and would they please omit, I should
have fine vegetation and foliage all the year round,
and never a winter month. Insanity to the sane
seems so unnecessary — but I am only one, and
they are ' four and forty,' which httle affair of num-
bers leaves me impotent. Aside from this, dear
Katie, inducements to visit Amherst are as they
were — I am pleasantly located in the deep sea, but
love will row you out, if her hands are strong, and
don't wait till I land, for I 'm going ashore on the
Following are letters written to her sister,
Miss Lavinia Dickinson, while Emily was re-
ceiving treatment for her eyes In Boston. She
was there for this purpose twice, — during the
summer of 1864, and again in 1865, usually
TO MISS LAVINIA DICKINSON
writing of these years as ' when I was sick so
long,' which has given many persons the idea
of an invaHdism she never had.
Dear Vinnie, — Many write that they do not
write because that they have too much to say, I that
I have enough. Do you remember the whippoor-
will that sang one night on the orchard fence, and
then drove to the south, and we never heard of him
He will go home, and I shall go home, perhaps
in the same train. It is a very sober thing to keep
my summer in strange towns — what, I have not
told, but I have found friends in the wilderness.
You know Elijah did, and to see the ' ravens ' mend-
ing my stockings would break a heart long hard.
Fanny and Lou are solid gold, and Mrs B and
her daughter very kind, and the doctor enthusiastic
about my getting well. I feel no gayness yet — I
suppose I had been discouraged so long.
You remember the prisoner of Chillon did not
know liberty when it came, and asked to go back to
C and A came to see me and brought
beautiful flowers. Do you know what made them
remember me ? Give them my love and gratitude.
They told me about the day at Pelham, you,
dressed in daisies, and Mr McD . I could n't
see you, Vinnie. I am glad of all the roses you find,
152 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1865
while your primrose is gone. How kind Mr C-
grew. Was Mr D dear?
Emily wants to be well — if any one alive wants
to get well more, I would let him, first.
Give my love to father and mother and Austin.
Tell Margaret I remember her, and hope Richard is
well. . . . How I wish I could rest all those who are
tired for me.
To the Same.
Dear Vinnie, — The hood is far under way, and
the girls think it a beauty. ... I hope the chimneys
are done, and the hemlocks set, and the two teeth
filled in the front yard. How astonishing it will
be to me ! . . .
The pink lily you gave Lou has had five flowers
since I came, and has more buds. The girls think
it my influence. Lou wishes she knew father's view
of Jeff Davis' capture — thinks no one but him can
do it justice. She wishes to send a photograph of
the arrest to Austin, including the skirt and spurs,
but fears he will think her trifling with him. I
advised her not to be rash.
How glad I should be to see you all, but it won't
be long, Vinnie. You will be willing, won't you, for
a little while? It has rained and been very hot,
and mosquitoes, as in August. I hope the flowers are
well. The tea-rose I gave Aunt L has a flower
1865] TO MISS LAVINIA DICKINSON 153
now. Is the lettuce ripe ? Persons wear no bonnets
here. Fanny has a blade of straw with handle of
To the Same.
. . . Father told me you were going. I wept for
the little plants, but rejoiced for you. Had I loved
them as well as I did, I could have begged you to
stay with them, but they are foreigners now, and all,
a foreigner. I have been sick so long I do not know
the sun. I hope they may be alive, for home would
be strange except them, now the world is dead.
A N lives here since Saturday, and two
new people more, a person and his wife, so I do little
but fly, yet always find a nest. I shall go home in
two weeks. You will get me at Palmer?
Love for E and Mr D .
To the Same.
. . . The Doctor will let me go Monday of Thanks-
giving week. He wants to see me Sunday, so I can-
not before. . . . Love for the Middletown pearls.
Shall write E after Tuesday, when I go to the
Doctor. Thank her for sweet note.
The drums keep on for the still man — but Emily
Love of Fanny and Lou.
154 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1865
Soon after the close of the war, a friend,
Mrs Vanderbilt of Long Island, met with a
very serious bodily accident. Upon her re-
covery she received the following welcome to
the realm of health : —
To this world she returned,
But with a tingle of that ;
A compound manner,
As a sod
Espoused a violet
That chiefer to the skies
Than to himself allied,
Half of dust,
And half of day, the bride.
On the occasion of another friend's departure
from Amherst after a visit, Emily's good-by was
embodied in the following lines, accompanied
by an oleander blossom tied with black ribbon :
We '11 pass without a parting,
So to spare
Certificate of absence.
I left her I could find her
If I tried.
This way I keep from missing
Those who died.
To Dr y. G. Holland, and Mrs Holland
npHE dates of these letters can be approx-
-^ imated only by the hand-writing —
which varies from the early style, about 1853,
to the latest — and by events mentioned, the
time of whose occurrence is known. Mrs Hol-
land writes that there were many other letters,
even more quaint and original, but unhappily
Thank you, dear Mrs Holland — Vinnie and I
will come, if you would like to have us. We should
have written before, but mother has not been well,
and we hardly knew whether we could leave her,
but she is better now, and I write quite late this
evening, that if you still desire it, Vinnie and I will
come. Then, dear Mrs Holland, if agreeable to
you, we will take the Amherst train on Tuesday
morning, for Springfield, and be with you at noon.
The cars leave here at nine o'clock, and I think
156 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1853
reach Springfield at twelve. I can think just how
we dined with you a year ago from now, and it
makes my heart beat faster to think perhaps we '11
see you so little while from now.
To live a thousand years would not make me
forget the day and night we spent there, and while
I write the words, I don't believe I 'm coming, so
sweet it seems to me. I hope we shall not tire you ;
with all your other cares, we fear we should not
come, but you ivill not let us trouble you, will you,
dear Mrs Holland?
Father and mother ask a very warm remembrance
to yourself and Dr Holland.
We were happy the grapes and figs seemed ac-
ceptable to you, and wished there were many more.
I am very sorry to hear that ' Kate ' has such
excellent lungs. With all your other cares, it must
be quite a trial to you.
It is also a source of pleasure to me that Annie
goes to sleep, on account of the 'interregnum' it
must afford to you.
Three days and we are there — happy — very
happy ! To-morrow I will sew, but I shall think of
you, and Sunday sing and pray — yet I shall not
forget you, and Monday 's very near, and here 's
to me on Tuesday ! Good-night, dear Mrs Hol-
land — I see I 'm getting wild — you will forgive me
all, and not forget me all, though ? Vinnie is fast
asleep, or her love would be here — though she is, it
is. Once more, if it is fair, we will come on Tuesday,
i853] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 1 57
and you love to have us, but if not convenient,
please surely tell us so.
Dear Dr and Mrs Holland, — dear Minnie —
it is cold to-night, but the thought of you so warm,
that I sit by it as a fireside, and am never cold any
more. I love to write to you — it gives my heart
a holiday and sets the bells to ringing. If prayers
had any answers to them, you were all here to-night,
but I seek and I don't find, and knock and it is
not opened. Wonder if God is just — presume He
is, however, and 't was only a blunder of Matthew's.
I think mine is the case, where when they ask an
egg, they get a scorpion, for I keep wishing for you,
keep shutting up my eyes and looking toward the
sky, asking with all my might for you, and yet you
do not come. I wrote to you last week, but thought
you would laugh at me, and call me sentimental,
so I kept my lofty letter for 'Adolphus Hawkins,
If it was n't for broad daylight, and cooking- stoves,
and roosters, I'm afraid you would have occasion
to smile at my letters often, but so sure as 'this
mortal ' essays immortality, a crow from a neigh-
boring farm-yard dissipates the illusion, and I am
And what I mean is this — that I thought of you
158 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1853
all last week, until the world grew rounder than it
sometimes is, and I broke several dishes.
Monday, I solemnly resolved I would be seiisible^
so I wore thick shoes, and thought of Dr Humphrey,
and the Moral Law. One glimpse of The Republican
makes me break things again — I read in it every
Who writes those funny accidents, where railroads
meet each other unexpectedly, and gentlemen in
factories get their heads cut off quite informally?
The author, too, relates them in such a sprightly
way, that they are quite attractive. Vinnie was
disappointed to-night, that there were not more
accidents — I read the news aloud, while Vinnie
was sewing. The Republican seems to us like a
letter from you, and we break the seal and read it
eagerly. . . .
Vinnie and I talked of you as we sewed, this
afternoon. I said — ' how far they seem from us,'
but Vinnie answered me *only a little way.' . . .
I 'd love to be a bird or bee, that whether hum or
sing, still might be near you.
Heaven is large — is it not? Life is short too,
isn't it? Then when one is done, is there not
another, and — and — then if God is willing, we
are neighbors then. Vinnie and mother send their
love. Mine too is here. My letter as a bee, goes
laden. Please love us and remember us. Please
write us very soon, and tell us how you are. . . .
o.-,-*^ <1^*^^0 ^yiZX' /<fc<t^>- y^"
l60 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1853
[Late Autumn, 1853.]
Dear Friends, — I thought I would write again.
I write you many letters with pens which are not
seen. Do you receive them?
I think of you all to-day, and dreamed of you last
When father rapped on my door to wake me this
morning, I was walking with you in the most won-
derful garden, and helping you pick — roses, and
though we gathered with all our might, the basket
was never full. And so all day I pray that I may
walk with you, and gather roses again, and as night
draws on, it pleases me, and I count impatiently
the hours 'tween me and the darkness, and the
dream of you and the roses, and the basket never
God grant the basket fill not, till, with hands purer
and whiter, we gather flowers of gold in baskets
made of pearl ; higher — higher ! It seems long
since we heard from you — long, since how little
Annie was, or any one of you — so long since Cattle
Show, when Dr Holland was with us. Oh, it always
seems a long while from our seeing you, and even
when at your house, the nights seemed much more
long than they 're wont to do, because separated
from you. I want so much to know if the friends
are all well in that dear cot in Springfield — and if
well whether happy, and happy — how happy, and
1853] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 161
why, and what bestows the joy? And then those
other questions, asked again and again, whose
answers are so sweet, do they love — remember us —
wish sometimes we were there ? Ah, friends — dear
friends — perhaps my queries tire you, but I so long
The minister to-day, not our own minister,
preached about death and judgment, and what
would become of those, meaning Austin and me,
who behaved improperly — and somehow the ser-
mon scared me, and father and Vinnie looked very
solemn as if the whole was true, and I would not
for worlds have them know that it troubled me, but
I longed to come to you, and tell you all about it,
and learn how to be better. He preached such an
awful sermon though, that I did n't much think
I should ever see you again until the Judgment
Day, and then you would not speak to me, according
to his story. The subject of perdition seemed to
please him, somehow. It seems very solemn to me.
I '11 tell you all about it, when I see you again.
I wonder what you are doing to-day — if you have
been to meeting? To-day has been a fair day,
very still and blue. To-night the crimson children
are playing in the west, and to-morrow will be
colder. How sweet if I could see you, and talk
of all these things ! Please write us very soon.
The days with you last September seem a great way
off, and to meet you again, delightful. I 'm sure it
won't be long before we sit together.
VOL. I.— II
1 62 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1854
Then will I not repine, knowing that bird of mine,
though flown — learneth beyond the sea, melody new
for me, and will return.
This little poem was enclosed in the fore-
going letter : —
Truth is as old as God,
His twin identity —
And will endure as long as He,
And perish on the day
That He is borne away
From mansion of the universe,
A hfeless Deity.
[Enclosing some leaves, 1854.]
May it come to-day ?
Then New Year the sweetest, and long life the
merriest, and the Heaven highest — by and by !
Dear Mrs Holland and Minnie, and Dr Holland
too — I have stolen away from company to write a
note to you ; and to say that I love you still.
I am not at home — I have been away just five
i8543 TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 1 63
weeks to-day, and shall not go quite yet back to
Massachusetts. Vinnie is with me here, and we
have wandered together into many new ways.
We were three weeks in Washington, while father
was there, and have been two in Philadelphia. We
have had many pleasant times, and seen much that
is fair, and heard much that is wonderful — many
sweet ladies and noble gentlemen have taken us by
the hand and smiled upon us pleasantly — and the
sun shines brighter for our way thus far.
I will not tell you what I saw — the elegance,
the grandeur ; you will not care to know the value of
the diamonds my Lord and Lady wore, but if you
have n't been to the sweet Mount Vernon, then I will
tell you how on one soft spring day we glided down
the Potomac in a painted boat, and jumped upon
the shore — how hand in hand we stole along up a
tangled pathway till we reached the tomb of General
George Washington, how we paused beside it, and
no one spoke a word, then hand in hand, walked
on again, not less wise or sad for that marble story ;
how we went within the door — raised the latch
he lifted when he last went home — thank the Ones
in Light that he 's since passed in through a brighter
wicket ! Oh, I could spend a long day, if it did not
weary you, telling of Mount Vernon — and I will
sometime if we live and meet again, and God grant
we shall !
I wonder if you have all forgotten us, we have
stayed away so long. I hope you have n't — I tried
l64 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1854
to write so hard before I went from home, but the
moments were so busy, and then they flew so. I
was sure when days did come in which I was less
busy, I should seek your forgiveness, and it did not
occur to me that you might not forgive me. Am I
too late to-day? Even if you are angry, I shall
keep praying you, till from very weariness, you will
take me in. It seems to me many a day since we
were in Springfield, and Minnie and the diwtb-bells
seem as vague — as vague ; and sometimes I wonder
if I ever dreamed — then if I 'm dreaming now,
then if I always dreamed, and there is not a world,
and not these darling friends, for whom I would not
count my life too great a sacrifice. Thank God
there is a world, and that the friends we love dwell
forever and ever in a house above. I fear I grow
incongruous, but to meet my friends does delight
me so that I quite forget time and sense and so
Now, my precious friends, if you won't forget me
until I get home, and become more sensible, I will
write again, and more properly. Why did n't I ask
before, if you were well and happy ?
I come in flakes, dear Dr Holland, for verily it
snows, and as descending swans, here a pinion and
1854] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 1 65
there a pinion, and anon a plume, come the bright
inhabitants of the white home.
I know they fall in Springfield ; perhaps you see
them now — and therefore I look out again, to see if
you are looking.
How pleasant it seemed to hear your voice — so
said Vinnie and I, as we as individuals, and then
collectively, read your brief note. Why did n't you
speak to us before? We thought you had forgotten
us — we concluded that one of the bright things
had gone forever more. That is a sober feeling,
and it must n't come too often in such a world as
this. A violet came up next day, and blossomed in
our garden, and were it not for these same flakes,
I would go in the dark and get it, so to send to
you. Thank Him who is in Heaven, Katie Holland
lives ! Kiss her on every cheek for me — I really
can't remember how many the bairn has — and give
my warmest recollection to Mrs Holland and Min-
nie, whom to love, this Saturday night, is no trifling
thing. I 'm very happy that you are happy — and
that you cheat the angels of another one.
I would the many households clad in dark attire
had succeeded so. You must all be happy and
strong and well. I love to have the lamps shine on
your evening table. I love to have the sun shine on
your daily walks.
The ' new house ' ! God bless it ! You will leave
the * maiden and married life of Mary Powell ' be-
Love and remember Emilie.
1 66 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1855
While the family lived for many years in the
old mansion built by Emily Dickinson's grand-
father, the Hon. Samuel Fowler Dickinson,
they had moved away from it about 1840; and
the following letter describes their return after
fifteen years to their early home, where Emily
was born, and where she died : —
Your voice is sweet, dear Mrs Holland — I wish
I heard it oftener.
One of the mortal musics Jupiter denies, and
when indeed its gentle measures fall upon my ear,
I stop the birds to listen. Perhaps you think I
have no bird, and this is rhetoric — pray, Mr
Whately, what is that upon the cherry-tree?
Church is done, and the winds blow, and Vinnie is
in that pallid land the simple call ^ sleep.' They
will be wiser by and by, we shall all be wiser !
While I sit in the snows, the summer day on which
you came and the bees and the south wind, seem
fabulous as Heaven seems to a sinful world — and
I keep remembering it till it assumes a spect?'al air,
and nods and winks at me, and then all of you turn
to phantoms and vanish slow away. We cannot
talk and laugh more, in the parlor where we met,
but we learned to love for aye, there, so it is just as
1855] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 16/
We shall sit in a parlor ' not made with hands '
unless we are very careful !
I cannot tell you how we moved. I had rather
not remember. I believe my ' effects ' were brought
in a bandbox, and the * deathless me/ on foot, not
many moments after. I took at the time a memo-
randum of my several senses, and also of my hat
and coat, and my best shoes — but it was lost in
the melee, and I am out with lanterns, looking for
Such wits as I reserved, are so badly shattered
that repair is useless — and still I can't help laugh-
ing at my own catastrophe. I supposed we were
going to make a * transit,' as heavenly bodies did —
but we came budget by budget, as our fellows do,
till we fulfilled the pantomime contained in the word
'moved.' It is a kind of gone- to- Kansas feeling,
and if I sat in a long wagon, with my family tied
behind, I should suppose without doubt I was a party
of emigrants !
They say that ' home is where the heart is.' I
think it is where the house is, and the adjacent
But, my dear Mrs Holland, I have another story,
and lay my laughter all away, so that I can sigh.
Mother has been an invalid since we came home,
and Vinnie and I 'regulated,' and Vinnie and I
' got settled,' and still we keep our father's house,
and mother lies upon the lounge, or sits in her easy-
chair. I don't know what her sickness is, for I am
1 68 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1856
but a simple child, and frightened at myself. I often
wish I was a grass, or a toddling daisy, whom all
these problems of the dust might not terrify — and
should my own machinery get slightly out of gear,
please, kind ladies and gentlemen, some one stop
the wheel, — for I know that with belts and bands
of gold, I shall whizz triumphant on the new
stream ! Love for you — love for Dr Holland —
thanks for his exquisite hymn — tears for your sister
in sable, and kisses for Minnie and the bairns.
From your mad
. . . February passed like a skate and I know
March. Here is the * light ' the stranger said ' was
not on sea or land.' Myself could arrest it, but will
not chagrin him.
. . . Cousin Peter told me the Doctor would
address Commencement — trusting it insure you
both for papa's fete I endowed Peter. We do not
always know the source of the smile that flows to
us. . . .
My flowers are near and foreign, and I have but
to cross the floor to stand in the Spice Isles.
The wind blows gay to-day and the jays bark hke
I tell you what I see — the landscape of the spirit
requires a lung, but no tongue. I hold you few I
1856] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 1 69
love, till my heart is red as February and purple as
Hand for the Doctor. Emily.
[Late Summer, 1856.]
Don't tell, dear Mrs Holland, but wicked as I am,
I read my Bible sometimes, and in it as I read to-day,
I found a verse like this, where friends should *go
no more out ; ' and there were ' no tears,' and I
wished as I sat down to-night that we were there —
not here — and that wonderful world had com-
menced, which makes such promises, and rather than
to write you, I were by your side, and the ' hundred
and forty and four thousand' were chatting pleasantly,
yet not disturbing us. And I 'm half tempted to take
my seat in that Paradise of which the good man
writes, and begin forever and ever now^ so wondrous
does it seem. My only sketch, profile, of Heaven is
a large, blue sky, bluer and larger than the biggest I
have seen in June, and in it are my friends — all of
them — every one of them — those who are with me
now, and those who were ' parted ' as we walked,
and 'snatched up to Heaven.'
If roses had not faded, and frosts had never come,
and one had not fallen here and there whom I could
not waken, there were no need of other Heaven than
the one below — and if God had been here this sum-
mer, and seen the things that / have seen — I guess
that He would think His Paradise superfluous. Don't
I/O LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1856
tell Him, for the world, though, for after all He 's
said about it, I should like to see what He was
building for us, with no hammer, and no stone, and
no journeyman either. Dear Mrs Holland, I love,
to-night — love you and Dr Holland, and ' time and
sense ' — and fading things, and things that do not
I 'm so glad you are not a blossom, for those in
my garden fade, and then a ' reaper whose name is
Death ' has come to get a few to help him make a
bouquet for himself, so I 'm glad you are not a rose
— and I 'm glad you are not a bee, for where they
go when summer 's done, only the thyme knows, and
even were you a robin, when the west winds came,
you would coolly wink at me, and away, some
As ' little Mrs Holland,' then, I think I love you
most, and trust that tiny lady will dwell below while
we dwell, and when with many a wonder we seek
the new Land, her wistful face, with ours, shall look
the last upon the hills, and first upon — well. Home!
Pardon my sanity, Mrs Holland, in a world /;/sane,
and love me if you will, for I had rather be loved
than to be called a king in earth, or a lord in
Thank you for your sweet note — the clergy are
very well. Will bring such fragments from them as
shall seem me good. I kiss my paper here for you
and Dr Holland — would it were cheeks instead.
P. S. The bobolinks have gone.
1857] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 171
Dear Sister, — After you went, a low wind war-
bled through the house like a spacious bird, making
it high but lonely. When you had gone the love
came. I supposed it would. The supper of the
heart is when the guest has gone.
Shame is so intrinsic in a strong affection we must
all experience Adam's reticence. I suppose the
street that the lover travels is thenceforth divine,
incapable of turnpike aims.
That you be with me annuls fear and I await
Commencement with merry resignation. Smaller
than David you clothe me with extreme Goliath.
Friday I tasted life. It was a vast morsel. A
circus passed the house — still I feel the red in my
mind though the drums are out.
The book you mention, I have not met. Thank
you for tenderness.
The lawn is full of south and the odors tangle,
and I hear to-day for the first the river in the
You mentioned spring's delaying — I blamed her
for the opposite. I would eat evanescence slowly.
Vinnie is deeply afflicted in the death of her dap-
pled cat, though I convince her it is immortal which
assists her some. Mother resumes lettuce, involving
my transgression — suggestive of yourself, however,
which endears disgrace.
'House' is being 'cleaned.* I prefer pestilence.
That is more classic and less fell.
172 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1859
Yours was my first arbutus. It was a rosy boast.
I will send you the first witch hazel.
A woman died last week, young and in hope but
a little while — at the end of our garden. I thought
since of the power of Death, not upon affection, but
its mortal signal. It is to us the Nile.
You refer to the unpermitted delight to be with
those we love. I suppose that to be the license not
granted of God.
Count not that far that can be had,
Though sunset lie between —
Nor that adjacent, that beside,
Is further than the sun.
Love for your embodiment of it. F t v
God bless you, dear Mrs Holland ! I read it in
I 'm so glad it 's a Httle boy, since now the little
sisters have some one to draw them on the sled —
and if a grand old lady you should live to be,
there 's something sweet, they say, in a son's arm.
I pray for the tenants of that holy chamber, the
wrestler, and the wrestled for. I pray for distant
father's heart, swollen, happy heart !
Saviour keep them all ! Emily.
Dear Hollands, — Belong to me ! We have
no fires yet, and the evenings grow cold. To-mor-
row, stoves are set. How many barefoot shiver I
1859] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 1 73
trust their Father knows who saw not fit to give
Vinnie is sick to-night, which gives the world a
russet tinge, usually so red. It is only a headache,
but when the head aches next to you, it becomes
important. When she is well, time leaps. When
she is ill, he lags, or stops entirely.
Sisters are brittle things. God was penurious with
me, which makes me shrewd with Him.
One is a dainty sum ! One bird, one cage, one
flight ; one song in those far woods, as yet suspected
by faith only !
This is September, and you were coming in Sep-
tember. Come ! Our parting is too long. There
has been frost enough. We must have summer now,
and ' whole legions ' of daisies.
The gentian is a greedy flower, and overtakes us
all. Indeed, this world is short, and I wish, until I
tremble, to touch the ones I love before the hills
are red — are gray — are white — are ' born again ' !
If we knew how deep the crocus lay, we never
should let her go. Still, crocuses stud many mounds
whose gardeners tiU in anguish some tiny, vanished
We saw you that Saturday afternoon, but heed-
lessly forgot to ask where you were going, so did
not know, and could not write. Vinnie saw Minnie
flying by, one afternoon at Palmer. She supposed
you were all there on your way from the sea, and
untied her fancy ! To say that her fancy wheedled
her is superfluous.
174 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [i860
We talk of you together, then diverge on Hfe, then
hide in you again, as a safe fold. Don't leave us
long, dear friends ! You know we 're children still,
and children fear the dark.
Are you well at home ? Do you work now ? Has
it altered much since I was there ? Are the children
women, and the women thinking it will soon be
afternoon ? We will help each other bear our unique
Is Minnie with you now? Take her our love, if she
is. Do her eyes grieve her now ? Tell her she may
have half ours.
Mother's favorite sister is sick, and mother will
have to bid her good-night. It brings mists to us
all ; — the aunt whom Vinnie visits, with whom she
spent, I fear, her last inland Christmas. Does God
take care of those at sea ? My aunt is such a timid
Will you write to us ? I bring you all their loves
They tire me. Emilie.
How is your little Byron? Hope he gains his
foot without losing his genius. Have heard it ably
argued that the poet's genius lay in his foot — as
the bee's prong and his song are concomitant. Are
you stronger than these? To assault so minute a
creature seems to me malign, unworthy of Nature
— but the frost is no respecter of persons.
i86i] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 175
I should be glad to be with you, or to open your
letter. Blossoms belong to the bee, if needs be by
habeas corpus. ^^^^^^
Probably about 1861 came this brilliant, yet
half pathetic, arraignment of the friends who
had not written when Emily expected to hear.
Who could resist such a plea?
Dear Friends, — I write to you. I receive no
I say * they dignify my trust.' I do not disbelieve.
I go again. Cardinals wouldn't do it. Cockneys
would n't do it, but I can't stop to strut, in a world
where bells toll. I hear through visitor in town, that
* Mrs Holland is not strong.' The little peacock in
me, tells me not to inquire again. Then I remember
my tiny friend — how brief she is — how dear she
is, and the peacock quite dies away. Now, you need
not speak, for perhaps you are weary, and ' Herod '
requires all your thought, but if you are well — let
Annie draw me a little picture of an erect flower ;
if you are ///, she can hang the flower a little on one
Then, I shall understand, and you need not stop
to write me a letter. Perhaps you laugh at me !
Perhaps the whole United States are laughing at
me too ! / can't stop for that ! My business is to
love. I found a bird, this morning, down — down
176 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1864
— on a little bush at the foot of the garden, and
wherefore sing, I said, since nobody /zf^rj-/
One sob in the throat, one flutter of bosom — ^My
business is to sing ' — and away she rose ! How
do I know but cherubim, once, themselves, as patient,
listened, and applauded her unnoticed hymn ?
Dear Sister, — Father called to say that our steel-
yard was fraudulent, exceeding by an ounce the rates
of honest men. He had been selling oats. I can-
not stop smiling, though it is hours since, that even
our steelyard will not tell the truth.
Besides wiping the dishes for Margaret, I wash
them now, while she becomes Mrs Lawler, vicarious
papa to four previous babes. Must she not be an
I winced at her loss, because I was in the habit
of her, and even a new rolling-pin has an embarrass-
ing element, but to all except anguish, the mind
It is also November. The noons are more laconic
and the sundowns sterner, and Gibraltar Hghts make
the village foreign. November always seemed to
me the Norway of the year. is still with the
sister who put her child in an ice nest last Monday
forenoon. The redoubtable God ! I notice where
Death has been introduced, he frequently calls, mak-
ing it desirable to forestall his advances.
i864l TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND lyj
It is hard to be told by the papers that a friend is
faihng, not even know where the water lies. Inci-
dentally, only, that he comes to land. Is there no
voice for these? Where is Love to-day?
Tell the dear Doctor we mention him with a for-
eign accent, party already to transactions spacious
and untold. Nor have we omitted to breathe shorter
for our little sister. Sharper than dying is the death
for the dying's sake.
News of these would comfort, when convenient or
Dear Sister, — It was incredibly sweet that Austin
had seen you, and had stood in the dear house which
had lost its friend. To see one who had seen you
was a strange assurance. It helped dispel the fear
that you departed too, for notwithstanding the loved
notes and the lovely gift, there lurked a dread that
you had gone or would seek to go. 'Where the
treasure is,' there is the prospective.
Austin spoke very warmly and strongly of you, and
we all felt firmer, and drew a vocal portrait of Kate
at Vinnie's request, so vivid that we saw her. . . .
Not all die early, dying young,
Maturity of fate
Is consummated equally
In ages or a night.
A hoary boy I 've known to drop
Whole-statured, by the side
Of junior of fourscore — 'twas act.
Not period, that died.
roL. i.~i2 Emily.
178 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1868
Will some one lay this little flower on Mrs
In handwriting similar to the letters about
1862-68, are several poems, enclosed to the
Hollands, among them, —
Away from home are some and I,
An emigrant to be
In a metropolis of homes
Is common possibility.
The habit of a foreign sky
We, difficult, acquire.
As children who remain in face,
The more their feet retire.
Though my destiny be fustian
Hers be damask fine —
Though she wear a silver apron,
I, a less divine.
Still, my little gypsy being,
I would far prefer,
Still my little sunburnt bosom.
To her rosier.
For when frosts their punctual fingers
On her forehead lay.
You and I and Doctor Holland
1876] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 179
Roses of a steadfast summer
In a steadfast land,
Where no autumn lifts her pencil,
And no reapers stand.
In addition to these, many other poems were
sent to the Hollands which have already been
published ; all of them, however, showing slight
changes from copies which she retained.
Dear Hollands, — Good-night ! I can't stay
any longer in a world of death. Austin is ill of
fever. I buried my garden last week — our man,
Dick, lost a little girl through the scarlet fever. I
thought perhaps that you were dead, and not know-
ing the sexton's address, interrogate the daisies.
Ah ! dainty — dainty Death ! Ah ! democratic
Death ! Grasping the proudest zinnia from my
purple garden, — then deep to his bosom calling
the serf's child !
Say, is he everywhere? Where shall I hide my
things? Who is alive? The woods are dead. Is
Mrs H. alive ? Annie and Katie — are they below,
or received to nowhere?
I shall not tell how short time is, for I was told
by lips which sealed as soon as it was said, and the
open revere the shut. You were not here in summer.
Summer ? My memory flutters — had I — was there
l80 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1877
a summer? You should have seen the fields go
— gay little entomology ! Swift little ornithology !
Dancer, and floor, and cadence quite gathered away,
and I, a phantom, to you a phantom, rehearse
the story ! An orator of feather unto an audience
of fuzz, — and pantomimic plaudits. *■ Quite as good
as a play,' indeed ! Tell Mrs Holland she is mine.
Ask her if vice versa ? Mine is but just the
thiefs request — * Remember me to-day.' Such are
the bright chirographics of the 'Lamb's Book.' Good-
night ! My ships are in ! — My window overlooks
the wharf! One yacht, and a man-of-war; two
brigs and a schooner ! * Down with the topmast !
Lay her a' hold, a' hold ! ' Emilie.
A letter from Mrs Holland to Emily and her
sister jointly, in 1877, called forth this unique
Sister, — A mutual plum is not a plum. I was
too respectful to take the pulp and do not like a
Send no union letters. The soul must go by
Death alone, so, it must by life, if it is a soul.
If a committee — no matter.
I saw the sunrise on the Alps since I saw you.
Travel why to Nature, when she dwells with us?
Those who lift their hats shall see her, as devout
I trust you are merry and sound. The chances
1S78] TO DR AND MRS J. G. HOLLAND 18 1
are all against the dear, when we are not with them,
though paws of principalities cannot affront if we
Dr Vaill called here Monday on his way to your
house to get the Doctor to preach for him. Shall
search The Republican for a brief of the sermon.
To-day is very homely and awkward as the homely
are who have not mental beauty.
Then follows, —
*The sky is low, the clouds are mean,'
printed at page 103 of the Poems, First Series.
T thought that * Birnam Wood ' had * come to
Dunsinane.' Where did you pick arbutus? In
Broadway, I suppose. They say that God is every-
where, and yet we always think of Him as somewhat
of a recluse. ... It is hard not to hear again that
vital * Sam is coming ' — though if grief is a test of
a priceless life, he is compensated. He was not
ambitious for redemption — that was why it is his.
'To him that hath, shall be given.' Were it not for
the eyes, we would know of you oftener. Have
they no remorse for their selfishness? *This taber-
nacle ' is a blissful trial, but the bliss predominates.
I suppose you will play in the water at Alexandria
Bay, as the baby does at the tub in the drive. . . .
Speak to us when your eyes can spare you, and
1 82 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1879
'keep us, at home, or by the way,' as the cler-
gyman says, when he folds the church till another
Loved and Little Sister, — Vinnie brought in a
sweet pea to-day, which had a pod on the 'off'
side. Startled by the omen, I hasten to you.
An unexpected impediment to ray reply to your
dear last, was a call from my Aunt Elizabeth — * the
only male relative on the female side,' and though
many days since, its flavor of court-martial still sets
my spirit tingling.
With what dismay I read of those columns of
kindred in the Bible — the Jacobites and the Jebu-
sites and the Hittites and the Jacqueminots !
I am sure you are better, for no rheumatism in
its senses would stay after the thermometer struck
We are revelling in a gorgeous drought.
The grass is painted brown, and how nature would
look in other than the standard colors, we can all
infer. ... I bade call on you, but Vinnie said
you were 'the other side the globe,' yet Vinnie
thinks Vermont is in Asia, so I don't intend to be
disheartened by trifles.
Vinnie has a new pussy that catches a mouse an
hour. We call her the * minute hand.' . . .
i88i] TO MRS J, G. HOLLAND 183
Dr Holland's death, in October of 1881,
brought grief to many loving hearts, but to
the quiet Amherst household peculiar pain,
voiced in the notes to follow.
We read the words but know them not. We are
too frightened with sorrow. If that dear, tired one
must sleep, could we not see him first?
Heaven is but a little way to one who gave it,
here. ' Inasmuch,' to him, how tenderly fulfilled !
Our hearts have flown to you before — our break-
ing voices follow. How can we wait to take you all
in our sheltering arms ?
Could there be new tenderness, it would be for
you, but the heart is full — another throb would
split it — nor would we dare to speak to those
whom such a grief removes, but we have somewhere
heard ' A little child shall lead them.'
After a while, dear, you will remember that there
is a heaven — but you can't now. Jesus will excuse
it. He will remember his shorn lamb.
The lost one was on such childlike terms with the
Father in Heaven. He has passed from confiding
to comprehending — perhaps but a step.
The safety of a beloved lost is the first anguish.
With you, that is peace.
I shall never forget the Doctor's prayer, my first
l84 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1881
morning with you — so simple, so believing. That
God must be a friend — that was a different God —
and I almost felt warmer myself, in the midst of a
tie so sunshiny.
I am yearning to know if he knew he was fleeing
— if he spoke to you. Dare I ask if he suffered?
Some one will tell me a very little, when they have
the strength. . . . Cling tight to the hearts that will
not let you fall.
Panting to help the dear ones and yet not know-
ing how, lest any voice bereave them but that loved
voice that will not come, if I can rest them, here is
down — or rescue, here is power.
One who only said ' I am sorry ' helped me the
most when father ceased — it was too soon for
Fearing to tell mother, some one disclosed it un-
known to us. Weeping bitterly, we tried to console
her. She only replied ' I loved him so.'
Had he a tenderer eulogy ?
... I know you will live for our sake, dear,
you would not be willing to for your own. That is
the duty which saves. While we are trying for
others, power of life comes back, very faint at first,
like the new bird, but by and by it has wings.
How sweetly you have comforted me — the toil
i88ij TO MRS J. G. HOLLAND 185
to comfort you, I hoped never would come. A
sorrow on your sunny face is too dark a miracle —
but how sweet that he rose in the morning — accom-
panied by dawn. How lovely that he spoke with
you, that memorial time ! How gentle that he left
the pang he had not time to feel ! Bequest of
darkness, yet of light, since unborne by him.
' Where thou goest, we will go ' — how mutual, how
intimate ! No solitude receives him, but neighbor-
hood and friend.
ReHeved forever of the loss of those that must
have fled, but for his sweet haste. Knowing he
could not spare them, he hurried like a boy from
that unhappened sorrow. Death has mislaid his
sting— the grave forgot his victory. Because the
flake fell not on him, we will accept the drift, and
wade where he is lain.
Do you remember the clover leaf? The little
hand that plucked it will keep tight hold of mine.
Please give her love to Annie, and Kate, who also
gave a father.
[To Mrs Holland, on the marriage of her daughter Annie,
December 7, 188 1 ]
Sweet Sister, — We were much relieved to know
that the dear event had occurred without over-
whelming any loved one, and perhaps it is sweeter
and safer so. I feared much for the parting, to
you, to whom parting has come so thickly in the
1 86 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1881
last few days. I knew all would be beautiful, and
rejoice it was. Few daughters have the immortality
of a father for a bridal gift. Could there be one more
As we never have ceased to think of you, we will
more tenderly, now. Confide our happiness to
Annie, in her happiness. We hope the unknown
balm may ease the balm withdrawn.
You and Katie, the little sisters, lose her, yet ob-
tain her, for each new width of love largens all the
rest. Mother and Vinnie think and speak. Vinnie
hopes to write. Would that mother could, but her
poor hand is idle. Shall I return to you your last and
sweetest words — ' But I love you all ' ?
Dare we wish the brave sister a sweet Christmas,
who remembered us punctually in sorrow as in
The broken heart is broadest. Had it come all
the way in your little hand, it could not have reached
us perfecter, though had it, we should have clutched
the hand and forgot the rest.
Fearing the day had associations of anguish to
you, I was just writing when your token came.
Then, humbled with wonder at your self- forgetting,
I delayed till now. Reminded again of gigantic
Emily Bronte, of whom her Charlotte said * Full of
ruth for others, on herself she had no mercy.' The
1883] TO MRS J. G. HOLLAND 187
hearts that never lean, must fall. To moan is
To thank you for remembering under the piercing
circumstances were a profanation.
God bless the hearts that suppose they are beating
and are not, and enfold in His infinite tenderness
those that do not know they are beating and are.
Shall we wish a triumphant Christmas to the
brother withdrawn? Certainly he possesses it.
How much of Source escapes with thee — ■
How chief thy sessions be —
For thou hast borne a universe
With wondering love,
Whom seeing not, we ' clasp.
Concerning the little sister, not to assault, not to
adjure, but to obtain those constancies which exalt
friends, we followed her to St Augustine, since
which the trail was lost, or says George Stearns of
his alligator, * there was no such aspect.'
The beautiful blossoms waned at last, the charm
of all who knew them, resisting the effort of earth or
air to persuade them to root, as the great florist
says ' The flower that never will in other climate
1 88 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1883
To thank you for its fragrance would be impos-
sible, but then its other blissful traits are more than
can be numbered. And the beloved Christmas, too,
for which I never thanked you. I hope the little
heart is well, — big would have been the width, —
and the health solaced ; any news of her as sweet as
the first arbutus.
Emily and Vinnie give the love greater every
To Mr Samuel Bowles and Mrs Bowles
AS Emily Dickinson approached middle
life, and even before her thirtieth year,
it seemed to become more and more impos-
sible for her to mingle in general society ; and
a growing feeling of shyness, as early as 1862
or 1863, caused her to abstain, sometimes,
from seeing the dearest friends who came to
the house. In spite of her sympathy with
sadness, and her deep apprehension of the
tragic element in life, she was not only keenly
humorous and witty, as already said, but,
while made serious by the insistence of life's
pathos, she was yet at heart as ecstatic as
a bird. This combination of qualities made
her companionship, when she vouchsafed it,
peculiarly breezy and stimulating. Such a
nature must inevitably know more pain than
Passionately devoted to her friends, her hap-
piness in their love and trust was at times
almost too intense to bear ; and it will already
1 90 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1858
have been seen how disproportionately great
pain was caused by even comparatively slight
separations. With her, pathos lay very, near
raillery and badinage, — sadness very near
Whether, in writing her poems, the joy of
creating was sufficient, or whether a thought
of future and wider recognition ever came, it
is certain that during life her friends made her
audience. She cared more for appreciation
and approval from the few who were dear
than for any applause from an impersonal
public. She herself writes, ' My friends are
All her letters show this rare loyalty of soul,
those in the preceding chapter particularly, but
none perhaps more strongly than those to Mr
and Mrs Bowles. Beginning about 1858, the
letters cover a period of twenty-six or twenty-
seven years. Often a single short poem com-
prises the entire letter, — sometimes only four
lines, and without title, date, or signature, but
unmistakably pertinent to a special occasion
[Late August, 1858 ?]
Dear Mr Bowles, — I got the little pamphlet.
I think you sent it to me, though unfamiliar with
your hand — I may mistake.
1858] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES I9I
Thank you, if I am right. Thank you, if not,
since here I find bright pretext to ask you how you
are to-night, and for the health of four more,
elder and minor Mary, Sallie and Sam, tenderly to
I hope your cups are full.
I hope your vintage is untouched. In such a
porcelain life one likes to be su7'e that all is well
lest one stumble upon one's hopes in a pile of
My friends are my estate. Forgive me then the
avarice to hoard them ! They tell me those were
poor early have different views of gold. I don't
know how that is.
God is not so wary as we, else He would give us
no friends, lest we forget Him ! The charms of
the heaven in the bush are superseded, I fear, by
the heaven in the hand, occasionally.
Summer stopped since you were here. Nobody
noticed her — that is, no men and women. Doubt-
less, the fields are rent by petite anguish, and
' mourners go about ' the woods. But this is not
for us. Business enough indeed, our stately resur-
rection ! A special courtesy, I judge, from what the
clergy say ! To the ^ natural man ' bumblebees
would seem an improvement, and a spicing of
birds, but far be it from me to impugn such
majestic tastes !
Our pastor says we are a ' worm.' How is that
reconciled ? * Vain, sinful worm ' is possibly of
192 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1858
Do you think we shall ' see God ' ? Think of
Abraham strolling with Him in genial promenade !
The men are mowing the second hay. The
cocks are smaller than the first, and spicier. I
would distil a cup, and bear to all my friends,
drinking to her no more astir, by beck, or burn,
or moor !
Good-night, Mr Bowles. This is what they say
who come back in the morning ; also the closing
paragraph on repealed Hps. Confidence in day-
break modifies dusk.
Blessings for Mrs Bowles, and kisses for the
bairns' lips. We want to see you, Mr Bowles, but
spare you the rehearsal of ' familiar truths.'
[Winter, 1858 ?]
Dear Mrs Bowles, — You send sweet messages.
Remembrance is more sweet than robins in May
I love to trust that round bright fires, some, braver
than I, take my pilgrim name. How are papa,
mamma, and the little people? . . .
It storms in Amherst five days — it snows, and
then it rains, and then soft fogs like veils hang on
all the houses, and then the days turn topaz, like a
Thank you for bright bouquet, and afterwards
verbena. I made a plant of a little bough of yellow
1859] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 1 93
heliotrope which the bouquet bore me, and call it
Mary Bowles. It is many days since the summer
day when you came with Mr Bowles, and before
another summer day it will be many days. My
garden is a little knoll with faces under it, and only
the pines sing tunes, now the birds are absent. I
cannot walk to the distant friends on nights piercing
as these, so I put both hands on the window-pane,
and try to think how birds fly, and imitate, and fail,
like Mr 'Rasselas.' I could make a balloon of
a dandelion, but the fields are gone, and only ' Pro-
fessor Lowe ' remains to weep with me. If I built
my house I should like to call you. I talk of all
these things with Carlo, and his eyes grow meaning,
and his shaggy feet keep a slower pace. Are you
safe to-night? I hope you may be glad. I ask
God on my knee to send you much prosperity, few
winter days, and long suns. I have a childish hope
to gather all I love together and sit down beside
and smile. . . .
Will you come to Amherst? The streets are very
cold now, but we will make you warm. But if you
never came, perhaps you could write a letter, saying
how much you would like to, if it were ' God's will.'
I give good-night, and daily love to you and Mr
I should like to thank dear Mrs Bowles for the
little book, except my cheek is red with shame
VOL. I. — \-X
194 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1859
because I write so often. Even the ^ lilies of the
field ' have their dignities.
Why did you bind it in green and gold? The
immortal colors. I take it for an emblem. I never
read before what Mr Parker wrote.
I heard that he was * poison.' Then I like poison
very well. Austin stayed from service yesterday
afternoon, and I . . . found him reading my Christ-
mas gift. ... I wish the ' faith of the fathers ' did n't
wear brogans, and carry blue umbrellas. I give you
all < New Year ! ' I think you kept gay Christmas,
from the friend's account, and can only sigh with
one not present at ' John Gilpin,' ^ and when he next
doth ride a race,' etc. You picked your berries
from my holly. Grasping Mrs -Bowles !
To-day is very cold, yet have I much bouquet
upon the window-pane of moss and fern. I call
them saints' flowers, because they do not romp as
other flowers do, but stand so still and white.
The snow is very tall, . . . which makes the
trees so low that they tumble my hair, when I cross
I think there will be no spring this year, the
flowers are gone so far. Let us have spring in our
heart, and never mind the orchises ! . . . Please
have my love, mother's, and Vinnie's. Carlo sends
a brown kiss, and pussy a gray and white one, to
each of the children.
Please, now I write so often, make lamplighter of
me, then I shall not have lived in vain.
i86i] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 195
Dear Mrs Bowles, dear Mr Bowles, dear Sally —
Sam and Mamie, now all shut your eyes, while I do
[Written in 1861, on the birth of a son.J
Dear Mary, — Can you leave your flower long
enough just to look at mine ?
Which is the prettiest? I shall tell you myself,
some day. I used to come to comfort you, but now
to tell you how glad I am, and how glad we all are.
. . . You must not stay in New York any more —
you must come back now, and bring the blanket to
Massachusetts where we can all look. What a
responsible shepherd ! Four lambs in one flock !
Shall you be glad to see us, or shall we seem old-
fashioned, by the face in the crib?
Tell him I 've got a pussy for him, with a spotted
gown; and a dog with ringlets.
We have very cold days since you went away, and
I think you hear the wind blow far as the Brevoort
House, it comes from so far, and crawls so. Don't
let it blow baby away. Will you call him Robert
for me ? He is the bravest man alive, but his boy
has no mamma. That makes us all weep, don't it?
One of the very few of Emily Dickinson's
verses named by herself was sent Mrs Bowles
soon after the preceding letter.
196 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1861
Teach him, when he makes the names,
Such an one to say
On his babbUng, berry Hps
As should sound to me —
Were my ear as near his nest
As my thought, to-day —
As should sound — * forbid us not ' —
Some Hke * Emily.*
Mary, — I do not know of you, a long while.
I remember you — several times. I wish I knew if
you kept me? The doubt, like the mosquito,
buzzes round my faith. We are all human, Mary,
until we are divine, and to some of us, that is far
off, and to some as near as the lady ringing at the
door ; perhaps that 's what alarms. I say I will go
myself — I cross the river, and climb the fence —
now I am at the gate, Mary — now I am in the hall
— now I am looking your heart in the eye !
Did it wait for me — did it go with the company ?
Cruel company, who have the stocks, and farms,
and creeds — and // has just its heart ! I hope you
are glad, Mary ; no pebble in the brook to-day — no
film on noon.
I can think how you look ; you can't think how I
look ; I 've got more freckles, since you saw me,
i86i] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 197
playing with the school- boys; then I pare the
' Juneating ' to make the pie, and get my fingers
Summer went very fast — she got as far as the
woman from the hill, who brings the blueberry, and
that is a long way. I shall have no winter this
year, on account of the soldiers. Since I cannot
weave blankets or boots, I thought it best to
omit the season. Shall present a ' memorial ' to
God when the maples turn. Can I rely on your
* name ' ?
How is your garden, Mary ? Are the pinks true,
and the sweet williams faithful ? I 've got a ge-
ranium like a sultana, and when the humming-
birds come down, geranium and I shut our eyes,
and go far away.
Ask ' Mamie * if I shall catch her a butterfly with
a vest like a Turk ? I will, if she will build him a
house in her ' morning-glory.'
Vinnie would send her love, but she put on a
white frock, and went to meet to-morrow — a few
minutes ago ; mother would send her love, but she
is in the * eave spout,* sweeping up a leaf that blew
in last November; I brought my own, myself, to
you and Mr Bowles.
Please remember me, because I remember you —
Then follows the poem beginning ' My river
runs to thee,' published in the First Series of
the Poems y page 54.
198 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1861
Don't cry, dear Mary. Let us do that for
you, because you are too tired now. We don't
know how dark it is, but if you are at sea, perhaps
when we say that we are there, you won't be as
The waves are very big, but every one that covers
you, covers us, too.
Dear Mary, you can't see us, but we are close at
your side. May we comfort you?
Friend, Sir, — I did not see you. I am very
sorry. Shall I keep the wine till you come again,
or send it in by Dick? It is now behind the door
in the library, also an unclaimed flower. I did not
know you were going so soon. Oh ! my tardy feet.
Will you not come again?
Friends are gems, infrequent. Potosi is a care,
sir. I guard it reverently, for I could not afford to
be poor now, after affluence. I hope the hearts in
Springfield are not so heavy as they were. God
bless the hearts in Springfield.
I am happy you have a horse. I hope you will
get stalwart, and come and see us many years.
1 have but two acquaintance, the ' quick and the
dead ' — and would like more.
I write you frequently, and am much ashamed.
My voice is not quite loud enough to cross so many
i862] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 199
fields, which will, if you please, apologize for my
Will you take my love to Mrs Bowles, whom I
remember every day?
Vinnie hallos from the world of night-caps, ' don't
forget her love.'
Dear Friend, — Are you willing ? I am so far
from land. To offer you the cup, it might some
Sabbath come }ny turn. Of wine how solemn-full !
Did you get the doubloons — did you vote upon
* Robert ' ? You said you would come in February.
Only three weeks more to wait at the gate !
While you are sick, we — are homesick. Do you
look out to-night? The moon rides like a girl
through a topaz town. I don't think we shall ever
be merry again — you are ill so long. When did
the dark happen?
I skipped a page to-night, because I come so
often, now, I might have tired you.
That page is fullest, though.
Vinnie sends her love. I think father and mother
care a great deal for you, and hope you may be
well. When you tire with pain, to know that eyes
would cloud, in Amherst — might that comfort,
We never forget Mary.
200 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1862
Dear Mr Bowles, — Thank you.
Faith is a fine invention
When gentlemen can see !
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency ! ^
You spoke of the ' East.' I have thought about it
Don't you think you and I should be shrewder to
take the mountain road?
That bareheaded Ufe, under the grass, worries
one Hke a wasp.
The rose is for Mary.
The zeros taught us phosphorus —
We learned to like the fire
By playing glaciers when a boy,
And tinder guessed by power
Of opposite to balance odd.
If white, a red must be ! ^
Paralysis, our primer dumb
I could n't let Austin's note go, without a word.
1 Second Series, page 53.
2 The poems enclosed in letters to friends are often
slightly different from her own copies preserved in the
manuscript volumes. This line, for instance, in another
place reads * Eclipses suns imply.'
i862] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 201
Dear Mary, — Could you leave * Charlie' long
enough ? Have you time for me 1 I sent Mr
Bowles a little note, last Saturday morning, asking
him to do an errand for me.
I forgot he was going to Washington, or I
should n't have troubled him, so late. Now, Mary,
I fear he did not get it, zndi you tried to do the
errand for me — and it troubled you. Did it?
Will you tell me ? Just say with your pencil ' It
did n't tire me, Emily,' and then I shall be sure, for
with all your care, I would not have taxed you for
You never refused me, Mary, you cherished me
many times, but I thought it must seem so selfish to
ask the favor of Mr Bowles just as he went from
home, only I forgot that. Tell me to-night just a
word, Mary, with your own hand, so I shall know I
harassed none — and I will be so glad.
Austin told us of Charlie — I send a rose for his
Put it in, when he goes to sleep, and then he will
dream of Emily, and when you bring him to Amherst
we shall be ^ old friends.' Don't love him so well,
you know, as to forget us. We shall wish he was n't
there, if you do, I 'm afraid, sha'n't we ?
I '11 remember you, if you hke me to, while Mr
Bowles is gone, and that will stop the lonely, some,
but I cannot agree to stop when he gets home from
202 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1862
Good-night, Mary. You won't forget my little
note, to-morrow, in the mail. It will be the first
one you ever wrote me in your life, and yet, was I
the little friend a long time? Was I, Mary?
Perhaps you thought I did n't care — because I
stayed out, yesterday. I did care, Mr Bowles. I
pray for your sweet health to Allah every morning,
but something troubled me, and I knew you needed
light and air, so I did n't come. Nor have I the
conceit that you noticed me — but I could n't bear
that you, or Mary, so gentle to me, should think me
It 's little at the most, we can do for ours, and we
must do that flying, or our things are flown !
Dear friend, I wish you were well.
It grieves me till I cannot speak, that you are
suffering. Won't you come back? Can't I bring
you something? My little balm might be o'erlooked
by wiser eyes, you know. Have you tried the
breeze that swings the sign, or the hoof of the
dandelion ? / own 'em — wait for mine ! This is
all I have to say. Kinsmen need say nothing, but
* Swiveller ' may be sure of the
Love for Mary.
Dear Friend, — ... Austin is disappointed —
he expected to see you to-day. He is sure you
1 862] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 203
won't go to sea without first speaking to him. I
presume if Emily and Vinnie knew of his writing,
they would entreat him to ask you not.
Austin is chilled by Frazer's murder.^ He says
his brain keeps saying over ' Frazer is killed ' —
* Frazer is killed,' just as father told it to him. Two
or three words of lead, that dropped so deep they
keep weighing. Tell Austin how to get over them !
He is very sorry you are not better. He cares
for you when at the office, and afterwards, too, at
home ; and sometimes wakes at night, with a worry
for you he did n't finish quite by day. He would
not like it that I betrayed him, so you'll never
tell. . . .
Mary sent beautiful flowers. Did she tell you?
Dear Friend, — The hearts in Amherst ache to-
night — you could not know how hard. They
thought they could not wait, last night, until the
engine sang a pleasant tune that time, because that
you were coming. The flowers waited, in the vase,
and love got peevish, watching. A railroad person
rang, to bring an evening paper — Vinnie tipped
pussy over, in haste to let you in, and I, for joy and
dignity, held tight in my chair. My hope put out a
You would come, to-day, — but ... we don't be-
1 A son of President Stearns of Amherst College, who
was killed during the war, 13th March, 1862.
204 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1862
lieve it, now ; ' Mr Bowles not coming ! ' Would n't
you, to-morrow, and this but be a bad dream, gone
by next morning?
Please do not take our spring away, since you blot
summer out ! We cannot count our tears for this,
because they drop so fast. . . .
Dear friend, we meant to make you brave, but
moaned before we thought. ... If you *11 be sure
and get well, we '11 try to bear it. If we could only
care the less, it would be so much easier. Your
letter troubled my throat. It gave that little scald-
ing we could not know the reason for till we grew
I must do my good-night in crayon I meant to in
Love for Mary.
After Mr Bowles had sailed for Europe,
Emily sent this quaintly consoling note to
[Early Summer, 1862,]
Dear Mary, — When the best is gone, I know
that other things are not of consequence. The
heart wants what it wants, or else it does not
You wonder why I write so. Because I cannot
help. I like to have you know some care — so
when your life gets faint for its other life, you can
lean on us. We won't break, Mary. We look very
small, but the reed can carry weight.
*i862] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 205
Not to see what we love is very terrible, and talk-
ing does n't ease it, and nothing does but just itself.
The eyes and hair we chose are all there are — to
us. Is n't it so, Mary ?
I often wonder how the love of Christ is done
when that below holds so.
I hope the Utde '■ Robert ' coos away the pain.
Perhaps your flowers help, some. . . .
The frogs sing sweet to-day — they have such
pretty, lazy times — how nice to be a frog ! . . .
Mother sends her love to you — she has a sprained
foot, and can go but little in the house, and not
abroad at all.
Don't dishearten, Mary, we '11 keep thinking of you.
Kisses for all. ,
[To Mr Bowles, June, 1862.]
Dear Friend, — You go away — and where you
go we cannot come — but then the months have
names — and each one comes but once a year — and
though it seems they never could, they sometimes
do, go by.
We hope you are more well than when you lived
in America, and that those foreign people are kind,
and true, to you. We hope you recollect each life
you left behind, even ours, the least.
We wish we knew how Amherst looked, in your
memory. Smaller than it did, maybe, and yet things
swell, by leaving, if big in themselves.
206 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1862
We hope you will not alter, but be the same we
grieved for when the China sailed.
If you should like to hear the news, we did not
die here — we did not change. We have the guests
we did, except yourself — and the roses hang on the
same stems as before you went. Vinnie trains the
honeysuckle, and the robins steal the string for
nests — quite, quite as they used to.
I have the errand from my heart — I might forget
to tell it. Would you please to come home ? The
long life's years are scant, and fly away, the Bible
says, like a told story — and sparing is a solemn
thing, somehow, it seems to me — and I grope fast,
with my fingers, for all out of my sight I own, to get
I had one letter from Mary. I think she tries to
be patient — but you would n't want her to succeed,
would you, Mr Bowles?
It 's fragrant news, to know they pine, when we are
out of sight.
It is 'most Commencement. The little cousin
from Boston has come, and the hearts in Pelham
have an added thrill. We shall miss you, most,
dear friend, who annually smiled with us, at the
gravities. I question if even Dr Vaill have his
Should anybody, where you go, talk of Mrs
Browning, you must hear for us, and if you touch
her grave, put one hand on the head, for me — her
1 862] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 20/
Father and mother, and Vinnie and Carlo, send
their love to you, and warm wish for your health —
and I am talcing lessons in prayer, so to coax God
to keep you safe. Good-night, dear friend. You
sleep so far, how can I know you hear?
Dear Friend, — I cannot see you. You will not
less believe me. That you return to us alive is
better than a summer, and more to hear your voice
below than news of any bird.
Dear Mr Bowles, — Vinnie is trading with a tin
peddler — buying water-pots for me to sprinkle
geraniums with when you get home next winter,
and she has gone to the war.
Summer is n't so long as it was, when we stood
looking at it before you went away; and when I
finish August, we '11 hop the autumn very soon, and
then 't will be yourself.
I don't know how many will be glad to see you, —
because I never saw your whole friends, but I have
heard that in large cities noted persons chose you —
though how glad those I know will be, is easier told.
I tell you, Mr Bowles, it is a suffering to have a sea
— no care how blue — between your soul and you.
The hills you used to love when you were in
Northampton, miss their old lover, could they
208 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1862
speak; and the puzzled look deepens in Carlo's
forehead as the days go by and you never come.
I 've learned to read the steamer place in news-
papers now. It 's 'most like shaking hands with you,
or more like your ringing at the door.
We reckon your coming by the fruit. When the
grape gets by, and the pippin and the chestnut —
when the days are a little short by the clock, and a
little long by the want — when the sky has new red
gowns, and a purple bonnet — then we say you will
come. I am glad that kind of time goes by.
It is easier to look behind at a pain, than to see
A soldier called, a morning ago, and asked for a
nosegay to take to battle. I suppose he thought we
kept an aquarium.
How sweet it must be to one to come home,
whose home is in so many houses, and every heart a
'best room.' I mean you, Mr Bowles. . . . Have
not the clovers names to the bees?
Before he comes
We weigh the time,
'T is heavy, and 't is light.
When he departs
Is the superior freight.
i862] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 209
On the hill
Their everlasting fashions set,
And covenant gentians frill !
[Late Autumn, 1862.J
So glad we are, a stranger 'd deem
'T was sorry that we were ;
For where the holiday should be
There publishes a tear ;
Nor how ourselves be justified.
Since grief and joy are done
So similar, an optizan
Could not decide between.
[Early Winter, 1862.]
Dear Friend, — Had we the art like you, to
endow so many, by just recovering our health,
'twould give us tender pride, nor could we keep
the news, but carry it to you, who seem to us to
own it most.
So few that live have life, it seems of quick im-
portance not one of those escape by death. And
since you gave us fear, congratulate us for ourselves
— you give us safer peace.
How extraordinary that life's large population
contain so few of power to us — and those a vivid
species who leave no mode, like Tyrian dye.
Remembering these minorities, permit our grati-
VOL. I. — 14
210 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1862
tude for you. We ask that you be cautious, for
many sakes, excelling ours. To recapitulate the
stars were useless as supreme. Yourself is yours,
dear friend, but ceded, is it not, to here and there a
minor life? Do not defraud these, for gold may be
bought, and purple may be bought, but the sale
of the spirit never did occur.
Do not yet work. No public so exorbitant of
any as its friend, and we can wait your health.
Besides, there is an idleness more tonic than toil.
The loss of sickness — was it loss ?
Or that ethereal gain
You earned by measuring the grave,
Then measuring the sun.
Be sure, dear friend, for want you have estates
If she had been the mistletoe,
And I had been the rose.
How gay upon your table
My velvet life to close !
Since I am of the Druid,
And she is of the dew,
I '11 deck tradition's buttonhole,
And send the rose to you.
Dear Mr Bowles, — I can't thank you any
more. You are thoughtful so many times you
i862] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 211
grieve me always ; now the old words are numb,
and there are n't any new ones.
Brooks are useless in freshet time. When you
come to Amherst — please God it were to-day — I
will tell you about the picture — if I can^ I will.
Speech is a prank of Parliament,
Tears a trick of the nerve, —
But the heart with the heaviest freight on
Does n't always swerve.
Perhaps you think me stooping !
I 'm not ashamed of that !
Christ stooped until he touched the grave !
Do those at sacrament
Commemorate dishonor —
Or love, annealed of love.
Until it bend as low as death
The juggler's hat her country is,
The mountain gorse the bee 's.
I stole them from a bee,
Because — thee !
Sweet plea —
He pardoned me !
Besides the verses given here, many others
were sent to Mr and Mrs Bowles, as to the
Hollands, which, having already been published
212 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1863
in one or the other volume of the PoejnSf
will not be reprinted.
Dear Friends, — I am sorry you came, because
you went away.
Hereafter, I will pick no rose, lest it fade or prick
I would like to have you dwell here.
Though it is almost nine o'clock, the skies are
gay and yellow, and there 's a purple craft or so, in
which a friend could sail. To-night looks like
' Jerusalem' ! . . . I hope we may all behave so as
to reach Jerusalem.
How are your hearts to-day? Ours are pretty
well. I hope your tour was bright, and gladdened
Mrs Bowles. Perhaps the retrospect will call you
back some morning.
You shall find us all at the gate if you come in a
hundred years, just as we stood that day. If it
become of ^jasper' previously, you will not object,
so that we lean there still, looking after you.
I rode with Austin this morning. He showed me
mountains that touched the sky, and brooks that
sang like bobolinks. Was he not very kind? I
will give them to you, for they are mine, and ' all
things are mine,' excepting * Cephas and ApoUos,'
for whom I have no taste. Vinnie's love brims
1863] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 213
Dear Mrs Bowles, — Since I have no sweet
flower to send you, I enclose my heart. A little
one, sunburnt, half broken sometimes, yet close as
the spaniel to its friends. Your flowers come from
heaven, to which, if I should ever go, I will pluck
My words are far away when I attempt to thank
you, so take the silver tear instead, from my full eye.
You have often remembered me.
I have little dominion. Are there not wiser than
I, who, with curious treasure, could requite your
Angels fill the hand that loaded
Nature and God, I neither knew.
Yet both, so well knew me
They startled, like executors
Of an identity.
Yet neither told, that I could learn ;
My secret as secure
As Herschel's private interest,
Or Mercury's affair.
Dear Friend, — You remember the little '■ meet-
ing ' we held for you last spring ? We met again,
'Twas May when we 'adjourned,' but then ad-
journs are all. The meetings were alike, Mr
214 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1863
^ ^ ^
The topic did not tire us^ so we chose no new.
We, voted to remember you; so long as both should
live! including immortality;, to count you^ as our-
selves, except sometimes more tenderly, j as now,
when you are ill, land we, the haler of the two —
and so I bring the bond we sign so many times,; for
you to read when chaos comes,! or treason, or de<:ay,
still witnessing for^ morning. . J . We hope our joy
to see you gave* of its own degree to you.: We pray
for your new health, the prayer that goes not down
when they shut the church. We offer you our cups
— stintless, as to the bee, -;— the lily, her new
liquors, t '
Would you like summer ? Taste of ours.
Spices? Buy here !
Ill ! We have berries, for the parching !
Weary ! Furloughs of down !
Perplexed ! Estates of violet trouble ne'er
looked on !
Captive ! We bring reprieve of roses 1
Fainting ! Flasks of air !
Even for Death, a fairy medicine.
But, which is it, sir? Emily.
I '11 send the feather from my hat !
Who knows but at the sight of that
My sovereign will relent?
As trinket, worn by faded child.
Confronting eyes long comforted
Blisters the adamant !
1864] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 21$
Her breast is fit for pearls,
But I was not a diver.
Her brow is fit for thrones,
But I had not a crest.
Her heart is fit for rest —
I, a sparrow, build there
Sweet of twigs and twine.
My perennial nest.
Dear Friend, — How hard to thank you — but
the large heart requites itself. Please to need me.
I wanted to ask you to receive Mr Browning from
me, but you denied my Bronte — so I did not dare.
Is it too late now? I should like so much to
remind you how kind you had been to me.
You could choose — as you did before — if it would
not be obnoxious — except where you ' measured by
your heart,' you should measure this time by mine.
I wonder which would be biggest !
Austin told, Saturday morning, that you were not
so well. 'T was sundown, all day, Saturday — and
Sunday such a long bridge no news of you could
Teach us to miss you less because the fear to miss
you more haunts us all the time. We did n't care
so much, once. I wish it was then, now, but you
kept tightening, so it can't be stirred to-day. You
did n't mean to be worse, did you ? Was n't it a
2l6 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1864
Won't you decide soon to be the strong man we
first knew? 'T would lighten things so much — and
yet that man was not so dear — I guess you 'd
We pray for you, every night. A homely shrine
our knee, but Madonna looks at the heart first.
Dear friend — don't discourage !
No wilderness can be
Where this attendeth thee —
No desert noon.
No fear of frost to come
Haunt the perennial bloom,
But certain June !
The following lines, sent with flowers, have
almost as quaint and 'seventeenth century' a
flavor as the now famous quatrain beginning, —
' A death-blow is a life-blow to some.'
If recollecting were forgetting
Then I remember not.
And if forgetting, recollecting,
How near I had forgot !
And if to miss were merry,
And if to mourn were gay.
How very blithe the fingers
That gathered this, to-day !
1864] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 21/
Other verses, sent at different times, were
written in the same general hand, — that of
the early middle period, from about 1863 to
1870; among them : —
* They have not chosen me,' he said,
* But I have chosen them.'
Brave, broken-hearted statement
Uttered in Bethlehem !
/could not have told it,
But since Jesus dared,
Sovereign ! know a daisy
Thy dishonor shared. Emily.
Mother never asked a favor of Mr Bowles before
— that he accept from her the little barrel of apples.
* Sweet apples,' she exhorts me, with an occasional
Baldwin for Mary and the squirrels.
Just once — oh ! least request !
Could adamant refuse
So small a grace.
So scanty put,
Such agonizing terms?
Would not a God of flint
Be conscious of a sigh,
As down his heaven dropt remote,
*■ Just once, sweet Deity ? '
1865] TO MR AND MRS BOWLES 219
A spray of white pine was enclosed with this
note : —
A feather from the whippoorwill
That everlasting sings !
Whose galleries are sunrise,
Whose opera the springs,
Whose emerald nest the ages spin
Of mellow, murmuring thread,
Whose beryl egg^ what school boys- hunt
In * recess ' overhead !
We part with the river at the flood through a
timid custom, though with the same waters we have
Dear Friend, — Vinnie accidentally mentions
that you hesitated between the Theophilus and
Would you confer so sweet a favor as to accept
that too, when you come again ?
I went to the room as soon as you left, to confirm
your presence, recalling the Psalmist's sonnet to
I have no life but this —
To lead it here,
Nor any death but lest
Dispelled from there.
Nor tie to earths to come,
Nor action new,
Except through this extent —
The love of you.
220 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1869
It is Strange that the most intangible thing is the
Your ' rascal.*
I washed the adjective.
I should think you would have few letters, for
your own are so noble that they make men afraid.
And sweet as your approbation is, it is had in fear,
lest your depth convict us.
You compel us each to remember that when
water ceases to rise, it has commenced falling.
That is the law of flood.
The last day that I saw you was the newest and
oldest of my life.
Resurrection can come but once, first, to the
same house. Thank you for leading us by it.
Come always, dear friend, but refrain from going.
You spoke of not liking to be forgotten. Could
you, though you would?
Treason never knew you.
Dear Friend, — You have the most triumphant
face out of Paradise, probably because you are
there constantly, instead of ultimately.
Ourselves we do inter with sweet derision the
channel of the dust; who once achieves, invali-
dates the balm of that religion, that doubts as
fervently as it believes.
j873] to MR AND MRS BOWLES 221
Dear Mr Bowles's note, of itself a blossom, came
I am glad it lingered, for each was all the heart
Of your exquisite act there can be no acknowl-
edgment but the ignominy that grace gives.
Could mortal lip divine
The undeveloped freight
Of a delivered syllable,
'T would crumble with the weight !
Dear Friend, — It was so delicious to see you
— a peach before the time — it makes all seasons
possible, and zones a caprice.
We, who arraign the Arabian Nights for their un-
derstatement, escape the stale sagacity of supposing
We miss your vivid face, and the besetting accents
you bring from your Numidian haunts.
Your coming welds anew that strange trinket of
life which each of us wear and none of us own ;
and the phosphorescence of yours startles us for its
Please rest the life so many own — for gems
222 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1874
In your own beautiful words — for the voice is
the palace of all of us, —
' Near, but remote.'
Dear Friend, — The paper wanders so I cannot
write my name on it, so I give you father's portrait
As summer into autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
* The summer ' than '■ the autumn,' lest
We turn the sun away.
And almost count it an affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not
The one that we have loved, —
So we evade the charge of years,
One, one attempting shy
The circumvention of the shaft
Of life's declivity. Emily.
If we die, will you come for us, as you do for
' Not born,' yourself ' to die,' you must reverse us
Last to adhere
When summers swerve away —
1S78] TO MRS BOWLES 223
To remember our own Mr Bowles is all we can do.
With grief it is done, so warmly and long, it can
never be new.
In January of 1878, Mr Bowles died, leaving
a sense of irreparable loss, not only to his
friends, but to his great constituency through
The Repiihlican, into whose success he had
woven the very tissue of his own magnetic
I hasten to you, Mary, because no moment must
be lost when a heart is breaking, for though it broke
so long, each time is newer than the last, if it broke
truly. To be willing that I should speak to you was
so generous, dear.
Sorrow almost resents love, it is so inflamed.
I am glad if the broken words helped you. I
had not hoped so much, I felt so faint in uttering
them, thinking of your great pain. Love makes us
' heavenly ' without our trying in the least. 'T is
easier than a Saviour — it does not stay on high and
call us to its distance ; its low ' Come unto me '
begins in every place. It makes but one mistake,
it tells us it is * rest ' — perhaps its toil is rest, but
what we have not known we shall know again, that
divine * again' for which we are all breathless.
I am glad you *work.' Work is a bleak re-
224 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1878
deemer, but it does redeem; it tires the flesh so
that can't tease the spirit.
Dear * Mr Sam ' is very near, these midwinter
days. When purples come on Pelham, in the
afternoon, we say * Mr Bowles's colors.' I spoke to
him once of his Gem chapter, and the beautiful
eyes rose till they were out of reach of mine, in
some hallowed fathom.
Not that he goes — we love him more who led
us while he stayed. Beyond earth's trafficking
frontier, for what he moved, he made.
Mother is timid and feeble, but we keep her with
us. She thanks you for remembering her, and
never forgets you. . . . Your sweet * and left me
all alone,' consecrates your lips.
Had you never spoken to any, dear, they would
not upbraid you, but think of you more softly, as
one who had suffered too much to speak. To forget
you would be impossible, had we never seen you ;
for you were his for whom we moan while con-
sciousness remains. As he was himself Eden, he
is with Eden, for we cannot become what we were
I felt it sweet that you needed me — though but a
simple shelter I will always last. I hope your boys
and girls assist his dreadful absence, for sorrow does
not stand so still on their flying hearts.
r879] TO MRS BOWLES 225
How fondly we hope they look like hhn — that
his beautiful face may be abroad.
Was not his countenance on earth graphic as
a spirit's? The time will be long till you see him,
dear, but it will be short, for have we not each our
heart to dress — heavenly as his ?
He is without doubt with my father. Thank you
for thinking of him, and the sweet, last respect you
so faithfully paid him.
Mother is growing better, though she cannot
stand, and has not power to raise her head for a
glass of water. She thanks you for being sorry, and
speaks of you with love. . . . Your timid ' for his
sake,' recalls that sheltering passage, ' for his sake
who loved us, and gave himself to die for us.'
How lovely to remember ! How tenderly they
told of you ! Sweet toil for smitten hands to con-
sole the smitten !
Labors as endeared may engross our lost. Buds
of other days quivered in remembrance. Hearts
of other days lent their solemn charm.
Life of flowers lain in flowers — what a home of
dew ! And the bough of ivy ; was it as you said ?
Shall I plant it softly ?
There were litde feet, white as alabaster.
Dare I chill them with the soil ?
VOL. I, — 15
226 LETTERS OP EMILY DICKINSON [1880
Nature is our eldest mother, she will do no harm.
Let the phantom love that enrolls the sparrow
shield you softer than a child.
Dear Mary, — The last April that father lived,
lived I mean below, there were several snow-storms,
and the birds were so frightened and cold, they sat
by the kitchen door. Father went to the barn in
his slippers and came back with a breakfast of grain
for each, and hid himself while he scattered it, lest
it embarrass them. Ignorant of the name or fate
of their benefactor, their descendants are singing
As I glanced at your lovely gift, his i^pril re-
turned. I am powerless toward your tenderness.
Thanks of other days seem abject and dim, yet
antiquest altars are the fragrantest. The past has
been very near this week, but not so near as the
future — both of them pleading, the latter priceless.
David's grieved decision haunted me when a little
girl. I hope he has found Absalom.
Immortality as a guest is sacred, but when it
becomes as with you and with us, a member of
the family, the tie is more vivid. . . .
If affection can reinforce, you, dear, shall not
i88i] TO MRS BOWLES 227
[Probably the famous 'Yellow Day,' September 6, 1881.]
Dear Mary, — I give you only a word this
mysterious morning in which we must light the
lamps to see each other's faces, thanking you for
the trust, too confiding for speech.
You spoke of enclosing the face of your child.
As it was not there, forgive me if I tell you, lest
even the copy of sweetness abscond ; and may I
trust you received the flower the mail promised to
take you, my foot being incompetent?
The timid mistake about being ' forgotten,' shall
I caress or reprove ? Mr Samuel's ^ sparrow ' does
not ' fall ' without the fervent * notice.'
* Would you see us, would Vinnie ? ' Oh, my
doubting Mary ! Were you and your brave son in
my father's house, it would require more prowess
than mine to resist seeing you.
Shall I still hope for the picture? And please
address to my full name, as the little note was
detained and opened, the name being so frequent in
town, though not an Emily but myself.
Vinnie says 'give her my love, and tell her I
would delight to see her;' and mother combines.
There should be no tear on your cheek, dear, had
my hand the access to brush it away.
Dear Mary, — To have been the mother of the
beautiful face, is of itself fame, and the look of
228 LETTERS OF EMILY DICKINSON [1881
Arabia in the eyes is like Mr Samuel. ' Mr
Samuel ' is his memorial name. * Speak, that we
may see thee/ and Gabriel no more ideal than his
swift eclipse. Thank you for the beauty, which I
reluctantly return, and feel like committing a
' startHng fraud ' in that sweet direction. If her
heart is as magical as her face, she will wreck many
a spirit, but the sea is ordained.
Austin looked at her long and earnestly.
* Yes, it is Sam's child.' His Cashmere confeder-
ate. It is best, dear, you have so much to do.
Action is redemption.
' And again a htde while and ye shall not see me,'
Jesus confesses is temporary.
Thank you indeed.
END OF VOL. I.